“A mind needs a book like a sword needs a whetstone.” Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
Social media has dumbed me down.
I didn’t realize it until I went onto an old online book discussion board that I used to frequent daily. I decided to visit it the other day, read some of the posts, and connect with old friends. As I read the posts and ideas of these dear fellows, I realized that I was in way over my head and that could barely keep up with the complex thinking of some of these topics. Topic after topic I read, trying to grasp the points, trying to have an opinion, and failing on all fronts. I soon gave up out of exasperation and I felt a bit embarrassed that, not only could I not follow along, but that I had nothing to contribute – not even opinions.
The journey to my current situation wasn’t overnight. It took years and years for my brainpower to degenerate. I used to be an avid reader, constantly with book in hand. I enjoyed lively and in-depth discussions on politics, philosophy, religion, and such. I played many online games that were nothing more than building story-lines through a discussion thread. It was intellectually exhilarating and I was at the top of my game.
Over time though, I stopped going to that discussion board because I was simply tired of it. I lost interest going over some of the same debates and discussions. The creativity games ended with nothing to replace them and I began to look elsewhere for my mental stimulation. My visits became more infrequent until I stopped going altogether. Around the same time, I stopped reading books on a regular basis.
That’s when my social media time increased. I got involved in Facebook and Twitter. Platforms, I might add, that have nothing to do with discussion or creativity but rather, more with memes, falsehoods, advertisements, and other things that do nothing to contribute to the quality of life, except for the funny dog or cat videos. My information became quick, my responses shorter, my creativity waned, and my curious mind took a vacation. I spent my free time scanning through the information I saw on social media sites without a second thought. And that’s precisely where the problem lays – doing something without a second thought.
As a result of years of this type of activity, I honestly feel that I’ve turned into a lazy thinker. My brain has become rusty, creaky, and unwilling to engage in complex thought. I used to be a problem solver but these days, I cringe at the thought of having to use my energy to solve a problem. My memory is shot. In fact, I don’t even try to remember anything. Social media has become my memory because I can just “pin” whatever I want to remember, freeing up my mind to be lazy. My curiosity is non-existent so much so that I don’t even think to question anything.
Luckily, I started to read a book again a few weeks ago but as I started, I noticed how hard it was to maintain. Reading is a skill that I seemed to have lost. I am still able to focus on the actual process of reading but once I put the book down, I tend to have little interest in picking it back up. I have to force myself to pick it up again, even though I happen to be thoroughly engaged with the book I’m currently reading. I have trained myself to the short information spurts of social media rather than the longer, richer adventure a book can provide. I need to re-train myself to enjoy this long adventure. I need to exercise my brain which has atrophied far worse than my body has.
Thankfully, as I have noticed these changes, I have also spent less time on social media and it is a very nice break. I feel more calm, happier, and aware of the world around me. I feel that I have more relaxation time especially since my evenings are spent reading and not watching TV or surfing the ‘net.
So, have you read any good books lately?