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|The www.Addiction - Page 3|
Is the Internet causing a widespread decline of moral, civil, and civic accountability? Probably not—the world has always had its share of haters, grousers, bashers, scoffers, whiners, screamers, and otherwise unfun people. But, today, when the Net is truly the world's first genuinely open-source free-expression zone, when just about anybody can get online and say just about anything, we necessarily have more of the not-so-nice backside of humanity pushed into our faces. The invective that once might have exhausted itself in a small-town bar late at night is now playing to an audience that's rapidly approaching two billion Internet users.
Still, as Carr writes in The Shallows, too much stimulation too fast doesn't seem to be good for what we quaintly call the more "humane" qualities of our species. Brain research is beginning to show that the sophisticated mental processes needed for empathy and compassion require a calm, attentive mind, and take time to unfold. "The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions," Carr writes. He quotes philosopher Martin Heidegger, writing in the 1950s about the oncoming "tide of technological revolution," which could "so captivate, bewitch, dazzle, and beguile man that calculative thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way of thinking." The capacity for meditation and contemplation—what Heidegger thought was the essence of humanity—he feared could be lost.
It was perhaps a good thing that he didn't live to see Kate Moore, a 16-year-old Iowa girl, win the $50,000 first prize at the 2009 LG U.S. National Texting Championship for thumb-typing on her hand-held phone (the Verizon LG enV3, if you must know) the words, "Zippity Dooo Dahh Zippity Ayy. . . MY oh MY, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine Comin' my way. . . Zippitty Do Dah Zippity Aay! WondeRful Feeling Wonderful day!"
Heidegger worried that the "frenziedness of technology" would "entrench itself everywhere." He didn't know the half of it!
Mary Sykes Wylie, Ph.D., is the senior editor of the Psychotherapy Networker. Tell us what you think about this article by e-mail at email@example.com, or at www.psychotherapynetworker.org. Log in and you'll find the comment section on every page of the online Magazine section.