While attending a funeral recently I glanced up and down just my row to see several people Twittering and checking emails in the last few minutes prior to the beginning of the service. It’s now common during sermons and seminars to see people with their heads down, busy passing on tidbits of information instantly. This morning I read that one million people are following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter.
I suggest that this massive addiction to information leads us away from wisdom, not toward it, creating what author Shane Hill calls “a permanent puberty of the mind.” Recognize that information, knowledge and even intelligence do not necessarily lead to wisdom. The overload of information in fact encourages the opposite of what creates wisdom – stillness, time, reflection and solitude. With the internet, TV, email, FaceBook, Twitter and cell phones, there is no waiting. There is no such thing as stillness or quiet personal reflection. Meaningful experiences and the path toward wisdom can be diverted by constant information.
I am not anti-technology. I love having instant access to useful information. But this is much like having a bowl of peanut M&Ms in front of me. I tend to eat them just because they are there. At some point I will have to remove myself from the bowl or my initial pleasure will turn to misery and sickness. And I believe allowing a constant diet of unlimited information and data into our brain will also ultimately turn from being a useful treat to something that will cause our mental lives to become bloated and deprive us of the characteristics we desire most. We have to decide when to push back from the table of information overload – where it leads to our emotional, social, philosophical, and psychological sickness rather than being a useful addition in our quest for wisdom. I have made strategic decisions to not be on Facebook or use Twitter. Not because they are bad but because I have to chose which tools that I can use effectively.
Increasing the rate of information input to your brain may make you a candidate for Jeopardy but it probably has little to do with increasing spiritual characteristics like love, trust, compassion, faith, courage – and wisdom.
Want to increase your wisdom?
- Practice reflection, meditation and introspective thinking for 30 minutes each morning. Many who allow constant input are keeping themselves in the shallow end of the wisdom pool. Don’t be one of them.
- Turn off the TV for at least two hours every evening
- Read your email at set times during the day – perhaps once in the morning and once in the evening. Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted with every new incoming message
- Spend four hours on Saturday without your cell phone or computer
- Plan one day a quarter on an “information fast.” Get away from your computer, your cell phone, TV and the newspapers. You’ll be amazed at how your creativity will increase – you may get the one idea that will change your future
- Read one good non-fiction book each month. Chose carefully from the wisdom of the ages.
Incidentally, according to a new Nielson report, 60% of Twitter users sign up and drop out after one month. And I seriously doubt that following Ashton Kutcher is going to increase your wisdom.