Nicolas Carr’s 2008 article in “The Atlantic” entitled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” caught a lot of people’s attention.
To even ask such a question is audacious, one might think. Isn’t the purpose of Google to help us find information on the Internet? How could finding new information make us less intelligent?
Carr intensifies his argument in a new book, “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains.” In a nutshell, here is what Carr claims: The way we browse items on the Internet changes the way we focus on information. We are acquainted with a greater array of information, but becoming less able to maintain a focus on that information.
“What we are losing is a whole other set of mental skills, the ones that require not the shifting of our focus but the maintaining of our focus,” Carr said. He has a prescription for those who feel their ability to concentrate for long periods of time has diminished: “… turn off the Internet and practice the skills of contemplation, introspection and reflection.”
Carr seems to be in the tradition of others, such as Marshall McCluhan, who made popular the phrase “the medium is the message,” in a 1964 book. How we receive our information can affect how we process that information.
Being able to properly process the information God gives us, is vitally important. He has given us an entire volume of messages, and we must not lose our ability to concentrate on what he has said.
Paul spoke of the importance of maintaining a focus on God’s word: “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13, NKJV).
The order of his instructions is not coincidental. If we don’t give adequate attention to reading the Scriptures, how will we know how to exhort one another? What will we teach as doctrine? If we bypass contemplative reading, how can we know our religion is what God wants?
In another place, Paul wrote, “How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3,4).
Clear understanding of what was once a mystery depends on careful reading.
When Philip approached the chariot in which the Ethiopian was riding he asked a simple question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30).
Today we can no longer assume they are reading. “Are you reading what you are browsing?” might be the inquiry needed.