Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The End of All True Friendships

I stepped outside my hotel room door and picked up the complementary USA Today lying on the floor. I read it at lunch today, and was especially interested in the editorial by Mark Vernon - "Is True Friendship Dying Away?" Vernon's answer is: yes. I think: of course it is. Add Vernon's brief insights to Nicholas Carr's deeper research in The Shallows and we have not only the loss of "friendship" but of meditative, contemplative consciousness as well.

The thesis is simple: repetitive behavior produces changes in the physical brain. Where is texting and messaging leading us? Vernon says: "Perhaps to a dark place, one where electronic stimuli slowly replace the joys of human contact." "We know that less is more when it comes to deeper relationships. It is lonely in the crowd. A connection may only be a click away, but cultivating a good friendship takes more. It seems common sense to conclude that "friending" online nurtures shallow relationships — as the neologism "friending" itself implies." Please note: this is not apocalytpic fear-mongering, it's just good old (new, really) neuroscience. Anyone who poo-poos the concerns of Carr and Vernon are simply neuroscientifically obfuscated.

If you want actual, close friendships, Vernon counsels: "Put down the device; engage the person." Do it while you still can.