Scuba gear or jet skis?

“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.”  So says Nicholas Carr in his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. 

Carr explores the neurological impact of swelling screen use.  He cites research demonstrating that the medium through which we receive and process information affects our brains.  It always has.  In the days before books were widely available, information was orally transmitted through stories and proverbs so it would be easier to remember. The invention of the printing press taught our brains to rely on printed words instead of our memories.

Today, the printing press is being replaced by “the world of the screen” (p. 77), and Carr argues that our brains are once again changing.  It remains to be seen whether “outsourcing our memory” (p. 181) frees our minds up for more productive thought or if technology will “seize our attention only to scatter it” (p. 118).

Is our increasing dependence on digital media turning us from deep divers to shallow skimmers?  Carr warns us that it might be.  It seems to me, however, that there are times for skimming and times for diving.  To use technology wisely is to understand the difference.

Personally, I appreciate the assortment of communication media available today.  Exploding connections, spoken, printed or visual, express our human desire to know and to be known, to learn, and to share our thoughts and ideas.  We come by it naturally, for we are created in the image of a Master Communicator.

God himself uses a variety of communication “technology.” In the days before written language, God made himself known through creation, miracles and supernatural revelation.  Eventually he arranged for a collection of inspired writings to be put together into what we now call the Bible.  People will read it until the end of time on paper or on a screen.

Sometimes I read the Bible on a jet ski, covering distance quickly and riding on high level themes like love, grace, redemption and forgiveness.  It can be exhilarating.  Other times I read the Bible in scuba gear.  I dive into one passage and immerse myself in it for a while, exploring caves and corners, looking under every word.  Previously vague concepts can come into focus on a dive like that.

How do you like to read the Bible or a novel or a newspaper?  Do you tend to prefer scuba gear or a jet ski? Do you find that you process information differently when accessed on a screen as compared to paper?

“Your word, O LORD, is eternal;  it stands firm in the heavens.”  Psalm 119:89

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