Posted on: May 07, 2019
Have you noticed you used to enjoy reading and now you don’t? Have you noticed your brain jumping around from topic to topic? Have you noticed that things you used to know you now Google? I am sorry to give you the news that you are becoming a Pancake Person. Pancake People is how playwright Richard Foreman describes the new self that has evolved under the stream of instant information and interruptions. Pancake people are spread thin and wide, connected to a vast network but without a personal store of cultural and retained knowledge. The net effect of constant interruptions and outsourced memory is a withering culture, eroding compassion, and an obsessive focus on the new over the important.
If you are a happy Pancake Person, stop here and skip to another short article, social media thread, or video game. If you are worried you are becoming less than you were, then act. Interruptive technology is so pervasive, however, that you need to deeply understand what is happening to your brain and how you can slow the drain of your higher thinking abilities before you can plan your defense. Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows will help you understand how and why interruptive technologies are changing us and what to do to maintain your best human qualities.
I am recommending this book to everyone I know and will also warn you that it scared me more than any Steven King novel. It tells the story and shows the research into what I feel and see happening in the world, and that is the lessening of people’s communication and thinking skills as they become shaped by interruptive screen technologies. The good news of the book is that once you understand the interplay between screen technologies and humans, you can take steps to lessen the negative effects on your brain. The prescription isn’t easy. Carr had to lock himself away in a cabin to gain back his ability to concentrate long enough to write a book. Complete isolation isn’t practical for most people, but there are things you can do such as deep reading, spending time in nature, managing your interruptions, and taking technology breaks that will combat becoming a shallow, Pancake Person. Read The Shallows while you still can.