At the Atlantic is a most frightening and excellent article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” that only just came to my attention (yet has its own Wiki page). It cannot be stressed enough how relevant to modern man the content is; after all, reflections and ideas like this cannot be found in traditional books because no one could foresee the monster that is the World Wide Web. The author, Nicholas Carr, first discusses the familiar experience of being able to focus less while reading (and, I think, doing isolated tasks in general), as he finds his mind pulled towards ‘checking up on’ something else. Many people, whom he cites and among my own personal “literary” acquaintances, have admitted this (which is a difficult thing to do): that while reading, a book or an article online, there is often a seemingly random urge to check one’s email or phone, for example. Individuals self-aware enough to notice this problem and try to make sense of it look towards the Internet, or modern electronics in general, as the culprit. To me this has always made sense: How can our minds wholesomely process the information that flies our way, that is available at such ease? (How many tabs/windows do you keep open?) How do those hideous, blinking, distracting ads actually affect us? There is something intuitively welcomed when we come across a largely clutter-free blog, such as Laura Wood’s. Research is showing that our beings (or “brains,” as reductionists will put it) are geared towards peaceful, simple settings, as one finds in the countryside, while they exhibit confusion upon the ugliness of urban “life” (better called death). Carr notes that “we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition.”
Apart from that a corporation, Google, controls virtually everything on the Web (which upon pondering should seriously alarm us), I do not believe that the way the Internet intrudes into our lives is something to be moderated, which apparently less extreme traditionalists believe. Perhaps they would disagree with my wording, arguing that I presuppose the Internet has some inherently bad quality, whereas I should say that “our use of the Internet should be moderated.” St. Thérèse observes in her autobiography, echoing Christ, that evil “does not exist in inanimate things, only in impure hearts.” Yet how eerie that we speak of “animating” technology! We see what is in man (Jn 2:25) when he is allowed his own microcosm — breathes an animus to create his own world.
Regardless of the absolute metaphysical interpretation of the Internet, it has been my long-standing belief that the Internet is opposed to virtue and elevates concupiscence, however it should be said. I have tried many times before to articulate my disdain for computers but never to my own satisfaction. However, I’m convinced that both physical and spiritual reasons exist that compel traditionalists to reject this medium entirely if possible (eventually, for some of us). The Internet is perhaps the peak of everything Revolutionary, with its dispersion of information (increased falsehood), its democratic nature (which Google loves!), its stress on efficiency, its predominating chaos and vulgarity, and so on.
Fundamentally, it would do us best to retreat into God’s creation, which St. Thérèse knew was “a foretaste of Heaven’s wonders,” and avoid man’s “progressive” pretensions. Nicholas Carr claims that the brain has nearly infinite plasticity. For men this should be encouraging, as a sign of hope to undo the ill effects technology has on us; but for Christians we have an even greater hope, for we know that God’s grace can overcome any evil of this passing world, purifying us in preparation for unity with Christ.