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Opinion

Facebook and Twitter are turning my mind to mush

Facebook, Twitter, and other addictive websites and applications make it hard to read books or finish projects without dipping back into the hypnosis-inducing well of Internet stuff that somehow feels like important work but is basically stories about bears stealing cars.

By / July 28, 2010



Minneapolis, Minn.

Facebook is turning my mind to mush and I don’t like it. The IQ drop is palpable, and it’s really beginning to get on my nerves.

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I’m no Internet critic. Nor am I some dude who’s nostalgic for the romantic bygone era of steam engines and Fatty Arbuckle.

My dad’s a digital design engineer, and some of my earliest childhood memories involve making cardhouses out of computer punchcards. I had an Atari 2600. In high school, I co-ran a BBS, using a dedicated phone line. (If that term’s unfamiliar to you, Google it and be astounded by how cool I was.) I founded a daily online magazine in college (1999), and obtained my first post-college job at The Christian Science Monitor’s relatively new online division.

So I know the Internet fairly well, and I’m comfortable not merely with its conventions, but also with its roots.

But neither am I a lifelong computer and/or Internet advocate, because it’s always struck me as something that isn’t “good” or “bad” any more than books, or radio, or television are good or bad. The Web is a medium. It’s a powerful new medium, and it can be filled with wonderful, thought-provoking information and context – or videos of cats playing the piano poorly.

New mental software

Therefore it’s with more than a little regret that I have come to realize that Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and any number of other catchily named applications and websites are taking my mind, the ripe fruit of the Wisconsin public school system, and spoiling it like an abandoned banana.

Which is to say, maybe this stuff is actually bad. It’s certainly reprogramming me mentally, and I don’t like the new software that’s being installed.

I used to read constantly, but now it’s getting difficult to finish even entertaining, well-written books. It’s also getting hard to complete even short projects (like writing this column) without dipping back into the hypnosis-inducing well of Internet stuff that somehow feels like important work but is basically stories about bears stealing cars.

Friends to whom I used to write eight-page letters – with illustrations! maps! sometimes even different colors of ink! – are now just little tiny sparks in the great big information power surge that is perpetually pumping into my parietal lobe.

And instead of sending long, thoughtful letters or emails that actually have so much content that they both constitute and stimulate self-reflection, I post stupid little Facebook status updates from Minnesota:

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