After finishing The Shallows, I am not too positive about our future. I think that may be part of the point of the book though. We do spend too much of our time online and get most of our information through a computer screen. And yes, I am writing this on an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard as I watch The Daily Show. It is multi-tasking at its worst, but as Nicholas Carr found, it is hard to disconnect and change the way of life that involves the Internet and the digital medium. But that doesn’t mean we have to focus our lives on this medium.
This evening, I had dinner with my friend, Oscar. We try to schedule a monthly dinner after my therapy session to get together and reconnect: talk about things that are troubling us and trading war stories about work. It’s a nice complement to our usual IM conversations on Gmail or random text messages when we see a crappy movie or see something dopey. I enjoy the random phone call from a friend more than the IM conversation online. It seems more geniune. And definitely more genuine than a random Facebook message.
But that is the way communication and knowledge is currently being conducted. Facebook and Twiter feeds have become a predominant source for news because if it’s important to a friend or relates to a family member, that is news that you can use. Why would a random event in a faraway land trouble you if it does not affect your world? It seems counter to globalization, but it appears to be the truth today.
Technology has always been a blessing and a curse, but humanity must be maintained. Today, I saw an article on MSNBC about “Facebook” depression in teenagers. I didn’t read the article because the headline was enough and I wasn’t interested in the concept. I find it sad that there is even such a concept no matter what it is about. We should not be depressed by the interactions with a tool. No one would be depressed by a book or a circular aw, unless you got a paper cut or lost a limb. But we have humanized Facebook and our Internet interactions. Many people have become completely reliant on their Internet presence. And we should worry about that the same way we worry about someone who watches too much television or even someone who reads too many books.
I highly recommend Mr. Carr’s book to anyone who is interested in our brain chemistry or is interested in how the Internet was developed. The chapter on Google made me fear for the future of knowledge and copyright. The passages from past fear-mongers who scared generations about the future of the world are fascinating. But in the end, the passage that stuck with me was from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He argued that writing required contemplation. That is would take years for a good piece of writing to take hold. I wrote down the quote in my little notebooks to remember to focus my writing and know that time is the best accelerant for creation. Long form story telling and true writing outside of the Twitter mainstream is not dead. It’s important to stop and think. It’s important to write and rewrite. Read a book and enjoy the slowness. That YouTube video will still be there tomorrow.