soaking, and why social media is bad for our brains

Socrates said, famously, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Sheldon Vanauken, less famously, wrote, “Examination of one’s life goes hand in hand with contemplation: first the seeing it as it is and then the thinking about it.”

Solomon saw, and thought, and wrote, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

David, in his own pursuit of wisdom and of wisdom’s God, prayed, “I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.”

Contemplation, examination, understanding, meditation–none of these things, I have realized, come easily or naturally or without effort. Thought takes time, it takes quiet, and it takes deliberate effort. We have to soak. If how we spend our minutes is how we spend our lives, then the more our minutes are full of sound bites, the less our thought lives will ever develop. We will stand before God not with minds that have been enriched by meditation in His Word and His ways, but with a severe attention deficit and a Twitter feed.

So that is why I’m making Internet changes. I’m a writer, a Christian one, and so I have a certain responsibility to think about things, to pray, and yes, to meditate. I’m afraid that if don’t rein in my Internet habits (which are very accurately portrayed in Debbie Ohi’s cartoon, below), not only will I never really think thoughts worth thinking, but I’ll actually train my brain to zone out and go looking for something new and exciting every thirty seconds.

The fact is, life is distracting enough without us exacerbating the problem through bad habits.

I’m not actually going to disappear from the online world. If anything, I’ll be here more. But I’ll here contributing: writing blog posts like this one, recording more of my own pilgrimage in the hopes that it will help or encourage someone else. I’ll be surfing far, far less. I’m planning to use Google Reader to keep up with my favourite blogs, but I’m only going to read them once a week or so–all at once, as though I’m sitting down with a magazine. And then I hope I’ll pay more attention to what they have to say, and be able to contribute something to the conversation because I’m not “just looking at this photo” and “just skimming this article” and “just updating this status” while I read.

Oh, and if you see a lot of FB status updates and Tweets, I’m not being a hypocrite–I’ve started using a social media manager (HootSuite) that lets me update everything at once without getting lured in by news feeds. I think I’ve cut my Facebook time by about 80% since I started using it last week.

The Internet is still a new world. It has so much potential for good, and so much potential to fry us. The difference will be in the choices we make.

So here I am, trying to make good ones. And here’s to you, as you do likewise.







4 responses to “soaking, and why social media is bad for our brains”

  1. Rachel Avatar

    So far, I have! Thanks :).

  2. Elisabeth Avatar

    Hmm … this makes me think, “If you can do it, I can do it too.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this – I really appreciate catching a glimpse of the good and bad of the www through another’s eyes. Hoping you find your choices good.

  3. Uncle Brian Avatar

    Such good, wholesome advice for us in this frenetic-paced world. Thank-you for sharing!

  4. Rachel Rossano Avatar

    Thank you for the timely reminder. I have also been struggling to regain the time to think and contemplate the Lord and His wonderous word. Best wishes for your own endeavors.

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