the_thinkerHave you lost your ability to think abstractly? That’s a question I have been asking myself lately, and then I came across this quote and started thinking about it even more.

While that reasoning appears sound, Hipps cites research that demonstrates television’s affect on our brains.  He writes, “We sit hypnotized by the program–the content–which has gripped our attention, unaware of the ways in which the television, regardless of its content, is repatterning the neural pathways in our brain and reducing our capacity for abstract thought.”  (Media & Message, Pixels & Faith, pp. 21-interview of Shane Hipps by Scott McClellan, March/April print edition of Collide Magazine).

I’ve always considered myself a person who likes to think deeply, and I really enjoyed studying, processing and discussing philosophy, theology, literature and psychology in my graduate school programs. At that time (especially my 1st program), watching TV was rare, we didn’t have wireless, let alone a laptop that was even good. So most of my time was spent in books, discussions, researching and writing papers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were less distractions…or maybe the distractions were just different.

But I find myself having a hard time, a lot of the time, settling into a state of more abstract thinking. I’m now used to having lots of tabs open on my computer, checking Facebook, Twitter, Tokbox, emailing, Google’ing stuff, watching YouTube videos, etc. Lots of work just involves being online and doing different tasks. And so to make the switch from that type of task to a more abstract type of task takes a lot of work.

One, it often takes a change of environment….well, actually a coffee shop works just fine for either.

Two, it often takes a change of tools…leaving the computer behind.

Three, it often takes some time to stop, pause, relax, and transition from one state to the next.

And know that I am NOT saying that doing all those online tasks don’t require abstract thought. I think they require a lot. But maybe it’s a different kind of abstract thinking. And maybe it’s a kind of abstract thinking that needs to be cultivated, just as I had to cultivate the type of abstract thinking that was required of me for graduate school.

Maybe that’s where I’m at…trying to flex that new online abstract thinking muscle.

I’d be curious to hear what Tony Steward thinks since he current job involves thinking abstractly in an online, very distractable world.

And what are all of your thoughts? Are there just different kinds of abstract thinking? How do you make the transition from one to the other? Has your abstract thinking suffered from all the noise (tv, computer, internet, cell phone) around you?