October 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm #35562
You Can’t Google This
note: This piece has some pretty scary statistics about the digitizing of society….just thought i would post this to remind readers to keep a balance between their qigong and meditation practice, dailylife, and the internet….
I haven’t posted recent newsletters to the forum, because they were mostly photos…will have a fix for that soon: articles page will allow photo storage.
by Alexander Green
The other day I had lunch with a friend. But I can’t say I enjoyed it.
Every five minutes, he pulled his BlackBerry out and glanced at his email. Sometimes he would just scan it. Other times he would offer an apology and type out a message. When he finished, he would thrust the phone back in his pants pocket, unable to trust himself with the device in plain sight.
Five minutes later, it was out again.
It reminded me of an Experimental Psych course I took in college. I trained a lab rat so that every time he pressed a bar in his cage, he received a food pellet. Then I required him to press the bar twice for a pellet. Then three times. Then five times. Then ten times. Before long, the rat was a bar-pressing maniac, oblivious to everyone and everything around him.
Sound like anyone you know?
Don’t get me wrong. The Internet is a godsend. Nobody knows this better than writers.
Twenty years ago, I wrote research reports for an international brokerage firm. This generally required multiple phone calls to investment banks and trading houses where I coaxed, cajoled, wheedled (ok, begged) other analysts to send me what I needed.
When the information arrived – usually days later – it required follow-up calls to update the data.
The Web has changed all that. Research that once required hours in the periodical room at the library or days sifting through reports is done in minutes. Information and ideas scattered or hidden around the globe can be gathered instantly. Being a writer today is like going back to school and finding that every exam is an open-book test.
Only a Luddite would argue that the speed, the efficiency, the convenience, and the cost savings of the Internet are not a blessing.
Still… it comes at a price. Consider, for example:
A 2008 international survey of 27,500 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 found that people are spending 30% of their leisure time online. And these figures don’t include time spent on cell phones and other mobile devices.
According to a new survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, kids are spending an average of more than 7½ hours a day using electronic media, which includes TV, the Internet, video games and mobile devices. Kids are plugged into some kind of electronic device for more than 53 hours a week, more time than most adults spend at work.
Children who are heavy media users tend to have lower grades than those who are light users. (Yet less than half of kids report that their parents set any rules or limits on usage.)
Three-quarters of all 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones, but not for talking much. Half of all teens send 50 or more texts a day. One in three sends more than 100 text messages a day, over 3,000 texts a month. Apparently, there is no such thing as a thought that doesn’t require instant communication.
Particularly scary is that 34% of cell-owning teens aged 16-17 admit that they sometimes text while driving. Half say they have been in a car while the driver was texting. (In other words, keep your eyes on the oncoming lane and your hands in the 10-2 position.)
You might assume that our time spent texting and surfing the Net at least comes out of the hours we would otherwise spend watching TV.
Nope. The Nielsen Company’s research shows that as Internet use has gone up, TV viewing has either held steady or increased. In 2009, the time we spend in front of the tube – thanks in part to widespread adoption of the DVR – rose to a record 153 hours a month. (And this doesn’t include television programs watched online.)
We have become a nation addicted to electronic media.
Optimists point out that at least people spending time online are reading. That’s good. But studies show that most of the reading we do on the Internet is pretty shallow. We skim, we scroll, we hypertext from page to page.
Some argue that these links save time and facilitate learning. But the jury is still out. Psychologists say readers on the Internet are distracted and over-stimulated by hypermedia. We give less attention to what we read and remember less of it.
The online environment promotes cursory reading, distracted thinking and superficial learning. And the more we use it, the less patience we have for long, drawn-out, nuanced arguments. The kind of arguments, for instance, found in books.
Books – including e-books – require calm, focused, undistracted concentration that allows ideas to germinate and take hold. Deep reading inspires new associations, insights and the occasional epiphany. Thoughts expand, language grows, consciousness deepens.
This kind of reading enhances and refines our experience of the world. It strengthens your ability to think abstractly and enriches life outside the book.
Deep reading requires the time and attention that cultivates an educated mind. Yet polls show that Americans now spend less than 20 minutes a day reading printed matter of any kind.
We’re on the Net instead. Even when away from their computers and mobile devices – or on vacation – millions itch to check e-mail, Web surf, or do some Googling. They seek an Internet connection the way a man with his hair on fire seeks a pond. They want to feel connected.
For many, the digital revolution has put the computer – desktop, laptop and handheld – in control. The silicon chip is Big Brother, not because electronic media won’t let go of us but because we can’t let go of it.
I’m not much different than most. I work online. I use my browser to book flights and hotel rooms, pay my bills, schedule appointments, watch my stocks, and check the news.
But I don’t hesitate to disconnect. My cell phone is usually off. Except for business trips, my laptop stays home. My email goes unchecked for days at a time, especially on weekends. My colleagues think I’m an anachronism, but it feels great.
Walking around the University of Virginia campus the other day, I enjoyed the crisp weather and the red, orange and yellow leaves. But I wondered if the students even noticed. Eyes down, thumbs on tiny keyboards, they shuffled toward some unseen horizon, oblivious to their surroundings.
I realize some of us work jobs or have unusual circumstances where they simply must stay connected 24/7. But for millions of others, that’s not the case.
We seem to have developed a terrific anxiety about wandering off the grid. We fear that if we stop emailing, surfing, texting or posting that we’ll disappear.
The electronic-media obsessed have forgotten that they have a choice. They can log off and pay attention to something – or someone – else.
So spark a counterrevolution. Unplug the Tube. Turn off the iPhone. Get outside.
Psychological studies over the past twenty years reveal that spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, creates greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s normal … or relaxing … or part of our DNA. But it feels great to reconnect with those around you and The Great Outdoors.
Here’s a tip though. You can’t do it on Google.
AlexOctober 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm #35563
there is no way for consciousness waves to unpack in that sort of state
the deeper and slower you go the more powerful it gets
sex should be simple, not mindless bantering…
life is simple, unless you are avoiding it…
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