To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
I sat down to start writing this blog but then my phone buzzed, Instagram declared “you have a new follower!” - awesome. Ok back to writing, but first, I need more coffee. I filled my cup, I exhaled, and thought “ok, let’s do this…” I wrote two sentences before a “ding,” signaling the arrival of a new email, broke my concentration..” I'll just see what it is, and then go back to writing…”
It went on like this for a few hours.
I did finish this blog - after all you are reading it right now, but it was a fight. Incidents like this are making me ask the scary question: am I losing my ability to focus?
I recently had the thought “do I ever just do one thing at a time?” An honest evaluation of my day reveals almost constant multi-tasking. Skype calls while driving, texting while watching a movie, writing lyrics while listening to a podcast - one time I had a conference call while on a riding lawn mower! It’s out of control.
We live in an era of unprecedented connectedness. We have access to a vast amount of stimulus, it's in our pockets, on every screen, and every day it grows. The scary thing is that the internet, in particular, is rewiring our brains. In Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” he writes:
“Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it; in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along like a guy on a jet ski”. (7)
Paul warns us in Romans 12: 2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We live in a world that celebrates instant information, superficial thinking, and multitasking. I have seen the consequences of this on my walk with God. An intimate relationship with Jesus requires us to pull away, to focus our minds and our hearts on Him, to study His word, and to seek Him in concentrated prayer.
The reality is that our world, and specifically the internet, is rewiring our brains in such a way that it negatively impacts our ability to have a deep relationship with anyone, let alone God. Carr warns that “In the choices we have made, consciously or not, about how we use our computers, we have rejected the intellectual tradition of solitary, single-minded concentration…” (114)
He is not speaking from a Christian perspective, but the crossover to spiritual things is obvious. What’s more, our distracted minds are having an impact on our ability to create good art. The best art is fueled by solitude, by deep reflective thinking, and the ability to focus. As Carr writes “what we are doing when we multitask is learning to be skillful at a superficial level.”
I am disturbed by the impact of technology on my brain and my ability to create good art. But far worse than that is what I can see it doing to my relationship with God. Paul says the key to resisting the conforming pressures of the world is to renew our minds. It begins with right thinking.
We need to understand that the patterns of this world, which include the technology of our day, are not neutral. The internet is compromising our ability to focus and connect with God.
I am asking God for the wisdom to know how to resist, create boundaries, and not succumb to the distracted culture of our day or I fear that I will look back at my life and realize that in having done everything, I did nothing.
(7) The Shallows. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. - Nicholas Carr.