Recently, I introduced the work of Fr. Denis Lemieux, a Canadian priest at Madonna House, who offers some thoughts on how to stay human when everything around you is an i-something. That is, how to exercise moral and rational choice about what Internet products to use and how much. Here is what happens if we exercise no such discretion:

We all know, I think, that this technological world is a noisy, noisy, noisy one. Whether it’s the explicit noise of music and TV and movies or the more subtle “silent noise” of constant verbal input: texts and tweets, blogs and updates and IMs, we are in a state, if we choose, of constant sensory bombardment, a constant taking in of information or at least data (much that splashes around on the internet can only be formally recognized as “information”). (p. 139)

One problem, he says is that it is increasingly difficult for many young people to participate in a silent retreat. I suspect that they will end up knowing everybody and everything except themselves, which is not good news for their spiritual development. Nor for their intellectual development:

To what degree are we not really thinking our own thoughts, not really coming up with our own views, feelings, true responses to reality? To what degree do we simply parrot clichés and catch phrases. The latest memes coming out of the hive mind of the cyberworld? To what extent, more subtly, is our very train of thought dictated by the movement of the currents of debate and discussion? How much do we allow the very terms and flow of the debate to be set by others rather than by what we truly believe to be the essence of the matter? (p. 140)

There is a comparatively easy way to find out: Can we unplug for a while. If not … we may need a silent retreat.

See also: iThink: How to use new technology like a human being and

If the Internet is the problem, is more government really the solution?

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...