Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Electronic Multitasking

A Response to “The Challenge of Attention in the Digital Age,” an article written by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

[excerpt:] “Professor Dennis Dalton began his lecture on Mahatma Gandhi's mass civil-disobedience campaign following the Amritsar massacre, focusing on the Indian activists' persistence in staying attuned to their own inner morals despite the crush of British imperialism. The students flipped open their laptops and started clicking away. A few solely took notes, but many flipped back and forth between multiple windows: shopping on Amazon, cruising Facebook, checking out The New York Times Style section, reorganizing their social calendars, e-mailing, playing solitaire, doing homework for other classes, chatting on AIM, and buying tickets on Expedia. Josh kept a list because he was in such disbelief.”

The point of Mr. Mohler's article is to point out a serious problem within the culture – an obsession with using digital objects to multitask. I believe that he is completely correct with his assessment of the situation – that youth are becoming and have become more concerned with what their Facebook status is and whether the price on those sandals on Amazon has gone down enough to be in your price range, than they are with setting aside the time to sit down and simply read a good book or listen to a lecture or sermon.

I have noticed this trend as well, not only in the life of the young men and women around me, but in my own life as well. I have recently noticed the inordinate amount of time that I spend on the computer and other digital objects of entertainment every day, and the impact that they have had upon my educational and social life. While Facebook and IM are wonderful ways to communicate with people, they are no substitute for face-to-face conversations. While You Tube videos and MP3 players are fun and entertaining ways to pass the time, they are no substitute for taking an hour a day to sit down and dive deep into a passage in the Bible, or to read several chapters of a book written by authors such as John Piper, John MacArthur, or Jerry Bridges.

I think that the entire culture would benefit greatly if youth simply took a few hours a day to shut down their computer, plug their MP3 player in to charge, find a comfortable couch, sit down, and read a real book, not some teen vampire fantasy. I know I would. In fact, I am one of the guiltiest in this regard. I sat down to write a blog post on this subject last night, and realized that I also had my Facebook up, my music up, and I was chatting with 3 people online. A couple days ago, I took some of my own advice. I wasn't feeling well, and was taking a Sick Day from school. So, I grabbed The Bravehearted Gospel, went upstairs, and read a couple chapters of that. Then, I came downstairs, got a blanket and an extra pillow, and lay in my couch for the next 55 minutes listening to my pastor's sermon that I missed the day before. I got more out of that sermon than almost any that I have listened to from the pew, because I was in a relaxed, open-minded mood, and I was doing absolutely nothing else.

The Harris boys once wrote an article about Multitasking. "No one seems to want (and no one can find) a place for quiet," wrote Francis Schaeffer, "because when you are quiet, you have to face reality. But many in the present generation dare not do this because on their own basis reality leads them to meaninglessness; so they fill their lives with entertainment, even if it is only noise.[1]" I think that this is completely accurate. This is why we try to constantly be doing multiple things at one time – to avoid having to to face reality. We don't like reality, it's harsh, and it often hurts. We'd much rather talk to someone in an environment where we can simply close the chat window and sign off if we get in an argument, than be thrust into a situation where we have to deal with an argument right then and there.

Al Mohler hit the nail on the head when he wrote this article. Teens and adults alike have become obsessed with communicative technology, in order to be in an environment that they can control, and to avoid the harshness of reality. We need to drastically change the way we think and act in regards to technology, and we need to take the time to sit down every now and then, and immerse ourselves in a good book or sermon. I think that if we do, we shall become more focused, more well-mannered, and more thoughtful in the way we behave and speak.

[1]: Article no longer exists, no link is valid.


Life Savior said...

I'm in that group, because I spend a lot of time on the computer. But that's not exactly bad because I do a lot of studing on the enternet for tests I will take at the local college. But it can be addictive to want to keep checking up on things like your facebook (I don't have one);)


MIke H. said...

Good post, but it is "Dr." Mohler.