Is Technology Scrambling Your Brain?

It’s 2019. Why haven’t you started meditating, already?

So goes the column written by Farhad Manjoo in today’s New York Times. Admittedly, he almost lost me by the first graf when he tells us he spent New Year’s Day at a meditation centre. Now, I’ve got nothing against the existence of such places but they do ring the woo-woo alarm bells.

What piqued my interest was the second graf where he writes: “In the past, I might have mocked such proceedings, but lately I’ve grown fond of performative sincerity in the service of digital balance. It’s the people who haven’t resigned themselves to meditation retreats who now make me most nervous, actually.”

Oooooo, the tables are turned! I read on, albeit nervously. He goes on to write that technology may have liberated us from the old gatekeepers (I’m guessing he’s referring to newspapers and cable 6 o’clock news) but it has created a “culture of choose-your-own-fact niches.” That’s so true! And then Manjoo points out that technology has “brought the incessant nightmare of high-school-clique drama to every human endeavor.” It basically scrambles the brain.

Manjoo knows a thing or two about this world; he has been a technology journalist for nearly 20 years. This world, particularly the online one, he felt was rotting his brain, “turning me into an embittered, distracted, reflexively cynical churl.” He forced himself offline for periods of time with help from app blockers and getting his news from good ol’ fashioned newspapers instead of a screaming Twitter feed.

He turned to meditation. And, as if he was writing directly to me, he added, “don’t roll your eyes.” He goes on to write that he forced himself to meditate for short periods every day. It was difficult at first, he said, because his mind wasn’t used to sitting calmly and quietly. Can you relate to this? How often are you sitting on public transportation or waiting in a doctor’s office and just taking in everything around you? Not very, I bet. The pull of the phone is irresistible.

Manjoo said the effects of meditation were remarkable. He has no problem now, staying away from online apps. He’s better at sorting what’s important from what’s trivial. And, interestingly, he said he’s “more gracious and empathetic with others online.”

How cool is that?

It took me less than two minutes to read his column and I am convinced I need to make meditation part of my life.