I decided to re-blog this post from 2015. The links within the post still work, plus there are added new ones. AND don’t miss the new links at the end of this post – particularly for Christians.
I wanted to share some spiritual concerns related to my last post about google making people lazy, but it will take me a minute to get there. Besides the google search issue affecting our memories in a negative way, we also read differently on-line.
I’ve linked to articles in the past that discuss how we skim read and have shorter attention spans with on-line content, in comparison to the printed page. This is affecting our ability to read offline; we are loosing our ability to concentrate and read longer or more challenging works of substance.
But what about e-readers? Certainly there are advantages to e-readers but there are negatives when it comes to reading for retention and learning, such as non-fiction and textbooks. But even with fiction, studies suggest that recall of the plot after using an e-reader is poorer than with paper books and they link it to the lack of tactile feedback with an e-reader.
Update, more links: A new study shows that students learn much more effectively from print textbooks than screens.
Another: ‘Major distraction’: school dumps iPads, returns to paper textbooks
One more: How Technology Corrupts Education
Similarly, an article focusing on educational reading discussed the importance of “cognitive mapping” which is lost with an e-reader. It stated:
“The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.”
Perhaps (?) people can be higher or lower on the scale of how much cognitive mapping or the tactile aspects affects them, but it is HUGE for me. Tangible aspects of reading a paper book are critical for me to properly understand what I am reading. In fact, I will print out on-line content if I know it is critical for me to understand it. I also highlight or underline key points, and jot notes in margins.
Related to this is handwriting versus tapping computer keys. This article Want to Remember your notes? Write them, don’t type them reports on a study which finds that a laptop makes note taking so easy it is actually ineffective!
Scientific evidence on why handwriting is important for both children and adults is found here: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades. For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information. Forming letters with our fingers is completely different than tapping keys, as the article says:
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.”
By the way, I am not suggesting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and there are advantages to modern tech – but we need to use it wisely. I’m old school and you don’t have to be as old school as I am, but I would argue that you should blend the old and new. Consider why and what you are reading. That e-reader may be fine for leisure fiction, but not so good for works of substance. Etc.
Okay – what about the SPIRITUAL concerns?? Well, consider all the issues mentioned above:
Loss of tangible and tactile features that help us learn,
Less ability to recall and remember information,
Decreased ability to concentrate and read more deeply.
As Christians we are to be reading and studying our Bibles and growing in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, consider the implications if you are primarily reading your Bible and other biblical/theological content on an e-reader, iPhone, or computer screen. And you rarely write anything down with a pen on paper.
In a modern world, why write a Bible verse out by hand on a 3×5 card (remember those?) for reference and memorization purposes when you can just quickly look it up on your iPhone when you want to? Again, I hope this post makes the implications obvious.
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Despite some advantages, I fear that for many Christians the use of modern tech is hindering, not helping, their ability to hide God’s Word in their heart.
⇒⇒UPDATE, new article links:
- Why Christians Should Care About Neuroplasticity.
Excerpt: “Christians are people of the book. The Bible is literature, and the ability to deal properly with such writing is exactly what the brain is being transformed to resist. If Christians desire to continue to be people of the book who care deeply about not only understanding it rightly, but also being transformed by it, then we must put major controls on technology consumption. Rather than picking up a screen, pick up a book. Read a novel, a biography, or whatever suits one’s interest. Get a real book that is printed on paper. Studies indicate printed books develop the functions of the brain that technology is dissipating. Technology can be useful, but it must be limited. Knowledge of God is at stake.”
- Screens Are Changing the Way We Read Scripture.
As digital reading habits rewire our brains, how will we process the Bible differently?
- Digital Bibles Help Men Read More But Retain Less
Reading more is not so helpful if we retain less! Data suggests Christians are unaware of the effect the medium has on the message.
- Demon Screens.
“Read, read, read, I tell them, and not on a screen. You will become a more interesting person with more knowledge and a better vocabulary and a deeper understanding of human motives.”
- Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain.
Why junk food for the brain is toxic. Many good ideas for healthy brain food: write with a pen, read a tangible book, meditate, do “deep work.”