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The internet, spirituality and life

Cartoon by Dave Walker

Last week on vacation with my family, all three of my children had smart phones that kept us on the right roads, helped us find the best restaurants and kept us updated with the scores in the world cup.  All of that (and much more) was very helpful and much appreciated.  I am sorely tempted by all things technological but for me, I have to decline this kind of connectivity.  Yes, I know my wife will be reading this and will remind me of my words should I ever be tempted to change my mind.

I have discovered that when I am connected, as I am when at home, too many days start out doing a quick check of emails and my favorite blogs and perhaps adding a post of my own.  Depending on my work schedule, this quick dip into the internet can last hours before I try to immerse myself into the word and prayer.  I can make that transition but it is not easy for me to make and the time it takes to find that inner silence I need in order to listen to God appears to be inversely related to the time I spend on the internet. I have no plans to do a study on this–I am sure it has already been done somewhere!

I have had some of the top Bible software for years on my computer and now am using Accordance since I have moved to the Mac.  Accordance replaces my old Gramcord and Libronix software and it is great–maybe I need to make another post on that! Since I often read near my computer, I do go to my computer to look up a word or do a little study when I am reading but I have to limit that since I quickly move from formational reading to informational reading.   I have tried to journal using my computer but I don’t have the emotional engagement as well as the personal satisfaction I do when I am writing in my paper and pen journal–one of the few good habits that I have been able to maintain over the years.

I still read a book or so a week–and I mean one of those with a 10 inch by 16 inch cellulose screens when fully extended.  I love to write notes, highlight and enjoy the pleasure of making my way through books with some length.  I have been using the kindle for my mac and previously the kindle for pc to read books although I have not actually read too many complete books since I downloaded these tools.  One of the main reasons I suspect is because I have been unable to highlight and make notes.  With my new kindle arriving next week, it will be interesting to see how my reading habits change.

What is the internet doing to our capacity to read, meditate and be reflective?  Everybody has their own opinion and story on this one! Here is the conclusion from an article by Caitlin Roper on two recent books on how the internet is affecting our culture today, Cognitive Surplus Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky and The Shallows What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  Carr’s book is the one I have on my desk to read but I may read Shirky’s book on my kindle–hmmm!  Following is Roper’s summary:

“Be wary of the Internet’s effects, Carr warns us. He makes a convincing case that we are altering our brains with every ping and click-though. Shirky, on the other hand, celebrates the possibilities the Internet affords, for civic engagement, for collaboration, for emotional support, for innovation. Who is right? I’d suggest that both of them are. If these books represent an equation that must be solved, we have to ask ourselves what scale of intelligence is more critical for us to evaluate? Is it the Internet’s effect on humans individually or on humans as a whole?

We are all part of a bridge generation. We’re also part of a massive experiment, and we don’t yet know the outcome. But there’s enough promise to all this for me to feel comfortable letting it play out, with maximum openness and flexibility, as Shirky suggests. At the same time, I have no doubt Carr is onto something too. We are altering how our minds work, and we are only at the beginning of a profound and unpredictable evolution.”

How is technology shaping your spirituality?

  1. Charlie
    July 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I agree with you that we should not be afraid to let this phenomenon play out in spite of the likely pitfalls. As for me I have certainly noticed that my ability to linger over and comprehend large amounts of information/narrative has diminished. Is it due to my “snippet” reading on the internet and moving about from site to site without spending much time in any one place? I think so, but can’t say for sure.

  2. August 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you for this post, I do agree with you, but I would like to add that people like your good self are doing a really very important job by bringing your own spirituality on to the internet. Think aout it. If there are billions of websites, some uplifting some not so, what is the overal balance is the internet a place of peace and harmony, showing the best of humanity, most people would probably say not really, it is very out of balance. But here is the thing every site, every post like yours is helping to readjust that balance, so keep up the good work and I urge others to play their part also.

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