Be warned: Web 2.0 does not promote sustained lines of thought

Straight from Wikipedia’s Web 2.0 entry:
A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where people are limited to the passive viewing of content. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, folksonomies, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, and mashups.

Be warned, Web 2.0 does not promote sustained lines of thought. I think of sustained lines of thought as the kind of thinking you need to write a short story, an argumentative essay, a novel, an academic article, and so on. You need sustained lines of thought to solve big problems, to think up new systems of government, and to be able to criticize political and social arrangements with any amount of coherence.

My claim is that Web 2.0 does not promote this kind of thinking. Web 2.0 makes it too easy for us to entertain ourselves to death.

Web 2.0 acts, from my perspective, as a never-ending cesspool of the sweetest-smelling entertainment; Web 2.0 is heroin for the mind. As an illustration, let me pick from my own Facebook wall. On the 7th of January, 2014, I posted three links in quick succession. On the first link, I went “Oh dear.” On the second, I went “LOL..” On the third, “Wow.” (If you like, you can click on them to think about whether my responses were valid — I still think they were.)

Let’s imagine how my thought process might have gone during those moments I read, and posted, those links. On the first link, I experienced concern for the pastor involved. On the second, I was thoroughly amused by the article, and the concern for the pastor faded somewhere into the background. On the third, I was amazed by the pictures on the news website, the amusement from the previous link fading, and the concern essentially invisible by now. I hope we can all see that a Web 2.0 experience like that encourages and even rewards discontinuous, broken thought.

There is an argument to be made that Web 2.0 can facilitate continuous, sustained thought, especially when one already has the habit and mental discipline to chase a single subject down. You could, for example, view Sir Ken Robinson’s extremely popular TED talks, and subsequently read his books. That would be an admirable example of Web 2.0 facilitating sustained thought — you could form a very coherent philosophy of education that way.

However, I believe that using Web 2.0 in the manner described in the previous paragraph to be the exception, rather than the norm. Most of us (including Mr Seah!) just click link after link, chasing after the next ‘hit’of entertainment. (“Hit” is a druggie’s term for a dose of drugs.)

I have a suspicion that discontinuous thought is important in kickstarting creativity, but most of you young’uns out there need to develop that brain muscle you use to think in a sustained manner first. Wanna solve a big problem? Wanna write a good essay? Then develop that brain muscle!

Quick tip:
Reading a novel rapidly (in one or two days) helps my brain get used to the discipline it needs to focus for long periods of time. You might want to give that a go!



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Be warned: Web 2.0 does not promote sustained lines of thought

2 thoughts on “Be warned: Web 2.0 does not promote sustained lines of thought

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