There are enough articles to suggest that the internet really does affect the way we think and the manner in which we act. To be fair, though, it must be admitted that these impacts can be positive or negative. I suggest the following as helpful points and counterpoints on what is an ongoing debate:
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain (a critical piece about how surface-level we are becoming as a result of continual “browsing”)
- The Defense of Computers, the Internet and Our Brain (a defense of the internet, taking on The Shallows in a direct way)
- Is Google Making us Stupid? (another critical piece about how internet searching can affect the way we think)
As Advent is upon us, it’s worth taking an inventory of how we use the internet to engage with others and with our faith. This is a season of waiting, anticipating the next time Jesus comes to earth. I’ve been waiting for my entire life and find Advent as an annual retooling in the art of waiting.
The internet does impact us. We become impatient, fast-thinking, and demanding. We also can learn things more quickly and cover more intellectual ground than ever before in history.
Here are three things you can do this Advent as you re-learn the ancient practice of “holy anticipation”:
- Hold off on a post or comment. If you are a blogger, let your post stew for a few days before you go live with it. If you are someone who likes to read others’ blogs and then make a comment, pause– for an hour or for a day. Then post what you’re thinking about the article. This process of moving forward/pulling back is a classic Advent move. (For a long post, I like to use Evernote as the stew-pot; then I copy and paste into WordPress)
- Take slow internet speeds as a gift. If your wireless goes haywire, count this as a blessing: you get to wait a few seconds or, if you’re really lucky, a few minutes. This may be God’s subtle suggestion that you become a more patient person. (Okay, or switch your internet provider)
- Interpret gradual improvement as Gospel. If life is moving slower than you’d like, take this too as a gift from God. Your blog only has a thousand followers–okay. Your Twitter feed only has 532 followers–okay. Your prayer life is only partly consistent–okay. All of this is part of the journey. Get comfortable with gradual improvement rather than skyrocketing success. I find that my spiritual director reminds me each month of this truth: holiness is a process rather than a point in time.
Advent is special. It makes no sense if you see it through the lens of conventional wisdom. It makes perfect sense if you see waiting as God’s gift.