Posted by: Douglas Mehling | December 10, 2007

Is the Internet a waste of time?

Just a few hours ago I ran across a very interesting blog entry describing a well-known author’s rantings against the evils of the Internet.  Always on the lookout for interesting ideas, I wanted to read further on this intriguing subject.  The author in question was Doris Lessing who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.  According to the opinion of the blog writer, her entire acceptance speech was concerned with how the Internet is dumbing down people.  Obviously since I was reading this opinion piece on a blog, the author took great issue at what Lessing was saying, and made her sound like a grumpy old woman who is out of touch with reality.  At first, I was in agreement with the blog writer who sees tremendous value and power in the Internet.
The real truth
Having said that, I convinced myself that I should examine what Lessing actually wrote before parroting the opinion of that blog writer.  And am I ever glad that I did read it, because I quickly realized how biased that blogger was in his assessment.  In this very long speech of about 10 pages, only one paragraph mentioned the word Internet.  In fact, the speech really had nothing to do with the Internet, but with the incredible value of books.  She makes that point wonderfully by focusing on the extreme disparities between those in third world countries who have a hunger to read and no access to books, and the incredible access we have in the industrialized world and yet so many could care less about books.  Consider this striking example.  There are people in villages who have gone days without eating, but their only thought is “how can I get a hold of something to read?”.  That is an incredible statement and represents the human desire for things of value and quality.
Lessing’s only real critique of the Internet is that it is a substitute for reading material that has great value and substance.  Some people end up spending their time studying things that never elevate their minds or motivate them to think more deeply about life.
Making it personal
I have to agree with much of what Lessing was saying, because much of what I find on blogs and other websites tend to have a lot less value and usefulness in many books and only deal with rather lightweight materials.  But don’t take that to mean that we should stop reading everything on the Internet including blogs (as in this blog).  There is still a tremendous amount of useful material on the Internet that is freely available to anyone with a connection.  As in any subject, we need a balanced approach, otherwise we could be missing a tremendous blessing.
Your opinion
So what do you think; is the Internet dumbing down those who read it?  Does the quick access to information make us impatient and undisciplined?  Also, how do we motivate people (especially young people) who are so hooked on reading trivial things on the Internet to spend some time browsing through a real book?


  1. Well Doug,

    I wish I could say something very profound and controversial here to stir up some serious blogging on your site but the fact is I seem to be in agreement with you about 99% of the time.

    It seems to me that there has always been someone who wants to bash the advancements of the civilized world. A few hundrend years ago it was book burnings for spreading depravited and degradated ideas and now this same dark ages mentality has gone after the internet.

    The other day I heard an eldery lady say, “If I had my way I’d take all of those computers and burn them!” Ok! That would save the world I’m sure!

    The truth is we’ve become a society dependant on computers and the net. While the internet can be a pain with all the spam I have to delete from my emial and the spy ware that mannages to slip into my computer from time to time it has so many benifets from learning to communicating with others that I’m just amazed.

    A few years ago I could never imagined all the things that I now do on the net today. Nor can I imagine where it will take me in the next 10 years.

    The Bible tells us that we are to go out and teach all nations, spreading the truth around the world. I’m convienced that it’s going to be through the internet that much of this is going to be achieved.

    While there will always be those in rual settings through out the world, those numbers are srinking every day. Think of the millions would be awaken to all sorts of new information in just the next decade such as parts of India, China, and though out the world as the internet grows.

    As Christians I think there’s a huge hole that we need to fill here with some positive information.

    There will be those who will find what ever it is they want to find on the net be it good or evil, as in life, God has given us free will to take off in any direction we choose.

    As far as undisciplined and impatient, it would be nice if we could blame it all on the internet and blogging, but that would be to say we have no control over our personality traits, that they are formed by an electronic box somehow, I am not respondible for what I do. I can imagine someone will someday say, “The internet made me do it!”

    As far as dumbing us down? Only if, like you said, we don’t keep thing in balance and prespective.

    While watching the news from time to time I would hear the word “water boarding” mentined. I had no idea what that meant but it seemed important to the news caster. I could of spent the better part of 2-3 hours going to the libary to resecarh it but it only took me about 30 seconds to learn all that I wanted to know on the net. Not a present subject but the point is “google” saved me a huge amount of time as well as educated me not only on this but hundreds of other sbujects over the years.

    I still love to pick up a book from time to time but hey, even with books you can get emursed in trivia. Check out the Gunnies Book of World Records for example, a lot of fun to read but what a waste of time!

    The net is what it is and what ever you want it to be. I just hope that we keep it “in balance” and let it help uplift those positive things in life.

    Your blogs have promted me to consider many things that I may not otherwise have tought of on my own. I always enjoy reading them.

    Blog on Doug! Blog on!

    (hope I’ve not made too many typeo’s cause I’m needed to go balance my life in other areas.)

  2. Well, I’d say the Internet isn’t an information source, per say, but simply a medium that you can write anything on…the trash is easily available, and you have to dig a little deeper for substance. The same is true offline…newspapers, tabloids, and magazines are on easily purchased in every shop, gas station, and grocery store…you have to search a bit harder for a Barnes & Noble.

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