Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life's Not a Road But a Series of Rabbit Trails

I am fascinated with Nicholas Carr's The Shallows. As I read it I think of students in my philosophy classes who freak out when I disallow texting and laptops in class. I think of "relationships" that are texting-based. I think of the many young people I meet who have lost the ability to think deeply because their physical brains are incapable of doing so. Note: the students in my class whose brains desire to link and link in a frenzy of constant distractedness are not rebellious. Instead, they know not what they do. They cannot but be distracted. "Distraction" is the epiphenomenon of their neural framework.

Carr writes: "Research continues to show that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links." (Kindle, 2,175-86) Because of the physical brain's neuroplasticity, if you constantly read texts peppered with links life will be, for you, an endless series of links.

I think of a married couple I recently counseled. They communicated their conflict via texting. One of them insisted that I counsel them via text messages. They told me they were incapable of talking face to face. I told them I would not do this, and commanded the couple to talk in person rather than via texting. In the midst of this the thought did come to me to start a texting-based marital counseling "center."

We are becoming the shallow people. The fine arts of meditation and contemplation are being erased from our long-term collective neural memory. Life, for many, is an experiential series of links and tweets and distractions and rabbit trails. Rather than there being a road in life, life is rabbit trails. Distraction, to be distracted, is the norm, the safe cognitive place.