The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

If you follow Cal Newport’s blog, you’ll know he writes often about the trends in our culture and the shift towards all things shallow. In this post, he addresses a chief concern of mine. He shares an example from the life of Martin Luther King Jr’s life to get to his point:

I’m bringing this all up because it provides background for a surprising claim that’s been growing online in recent years, and which seems self-evidently worthy of unpacking: social media might be accidentally undermining religion.

He began to notice a lot of the traffic for his newest book, Digital Minimalism, was coming from certain religious circles. After some thought, he recognizes this should not be a surprise.

Though there are many ways in which tools like Twitter or Instagram might work against (or in some cases with) the traditional objectives of religion, the issue that kept arising is the way in which the ubiquitous distraction they provide corrodes the contemplative life.

Courage, reassurance, revelation: these require a quiet mind capable of apophatic insight. One of the unintentional consequences of innovating an algorithmically-optimized, always-present source of attention-snagging noise is that this quiet disappears.

From my own experience, it’s tough to hear a still small voice amidst the mighty winds of social media and other tools that call for my attention.