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My Doubts About the Internet

by J. David Nolan
Publication: First Things

August 27, 2013


Humor site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency recently posted an article with this promise: “Our Internet Speeds Are So Fast You Will Lose Your Faith in God.” Finally, McSweeney’s says, that whole religion and science debate is dead; with the right technological gadgets, faith evaporates as nonessential metaphysical baggage. But rather than triumphantly defeating religion in a head to head battle, this high-speed Internet will just slowly drown out the religious impulse: “While you may experience a profound sense of ennui at the realization that your existence is lonely and temporal, it will soon be washed away as you stream Netflix while surfing the web . . . without that annoying buffering!”

More serious sources have contended that changes wrought by the Internet have come at a serious cost. For example, MIT professor Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together, argues that social media no longer simply mediates interactions but isolates us from each other as we construct idealized identities that are not anchored to anything in the real world.

Brett Robinson, author of Appletopia, argued in a recent article for Wired that there is a paradox at the center of the claims made by proponents of social media and personal computing devices. He writes, “new media technologies connect us to more people in more places. . . . But at the same time, mediating relationships from behind a screen breeds a pervasive sense of isolation.” Texting and tweeting are no real substitute for conversation and real human contact, yet these technologies form the primary social fabric of many American lives.

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