Can surfing make you stupid?
There's never been any doubt: surfing is the art of staying on the surface. If you want depth, you have to find a different sport. Deep-sea diving. Or reading.
Which is why I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Just because one Internet guru (Nicholas Carr) claims: "Google is making us stupid." And now everyone is flipping out - the "Spiegel", the "Atlantic", our Sunday newspapers: "Is the Internet making us stupid?" As if they have just seen the light.
What the guru has to say is actually interesting: His brain becomes a "nervous pinball machine" when he's googling. Nice image. Playing pinball instead of thinking. The guru says he feels it most strongly when he is reading. It used to be easy to immerse himself in a book. Now, his concentration starts to drift after only two pages, he gets fidgety, loses the thread, starts reading his e-mails or switches on his Blackberry. His concentration is shot and he always has to drag his wayward brain back to the text. And, I quote: "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like I'm water skiing." There you have it. You can't reach depths if you surf.
That's the way it is. But who told us we had to surf non-stop? Google? We are the ones googling our time away. Why? We don't like to be bored. You can call someone anything you want nowadays, an idiot, a scoundrel, a pain-in-the-ass, but certainly not a bore. Boredom is the greatest achievement of civilization. It started when cavemen were sitting with full stomachs in front of their caves, burping and thinking: What do we do now? They began to get itchy feet, to get restless. Which is the only reason that history began to move forward. Without boredom, the Greeks never would have invented the Olympic Games. Boredom was reserved for those who didn't have to work to survive. A privilege of kings and noblemen who also waged wars out of boredom. To this day, boredom has never been innocent. It is the last remaining window into the self from which we can look out into the world unchecked and daydream.
That's the point. And now let's get back to the "Google is making us stupid" debate. Do we let time smother us - or do we keep the window of time open? The window into oneself, with its unfulfilled desires and longings? The Internet business would rather close that window, this much is clear. It caters to our every need, but thrives on responding to them, not on letting us pontificate on them.
But, we are free to do what we want. We could - instead of spending our time on Google - listen to Friedrich Nietzsche. He calls boredom "that disagreeable "windless calm" of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds". Let us indulge in this "windless calm" for ten minutes every day. And laugh about the allegations being thrown at Google.