Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are Many Americans Going Crazy?

Why Are Most Churchmen and Theologians Silent About This Disaster?
Christian News, August 6, 2012
Vol 50, No. 32

“!Crazy. Panic. Depression. Psychosis. How connection Addiction Is Rewiring Our Brains” is the title of the important cover story by Tony Dokoupil in the July 16, 2012 Newsweek. It should be quoted in every religious newspaper and theological journal in the nation. In this computer age, all pastors, regardless of denominations, should bring it to the attention of their congregations. Seminary professors should urge all of their students to read it. How many have?

“Don’t Waste Time,” was the title of a section of “Christian News Challenges the Concordia University Systems and All Christian Youth – Work for a 21st Century Reformation – FIGHT FOR THE FAITH.” This speech was presented on February 3, 2011 at Concordia University, Wisconsin. It is an appendix in Herman Otten’s, Bonhoeffer and King – A Fifty Year Battle vs. Intellectual Laziness.

The CN editor said: Do not waste your years here at Concordia. When I was attending the graduate school at Columbia University in New York I figured out that it was costing me about five dollars an hour to sit in class. Use your library, read at least some of the periodicals in the reading room. Computers are helpful, yet, often they take the place of reading books and good magazines and newspapers. At times some of these chat rooms on the computer remind me of the bull sessions we had at Concordia, Bronxville. They were fun, but the time came to get down to real learning by reading books. The November 15, 2010 Christian News quoted at some length from the recently released book by Nicholas Carr, What The Internet Is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows. Carr writes:

‘The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thoughts, preventing our minds from either thinking deeply or creatively.’

“Warp Speed – Digital Gadgets are Changing Our Brains,” an editorial in Newsweek by Tina Brown – Editor in Chief, Newsweek, the Daily Beast,” says: “It’s like having an ever present, adulterous, inexhaustibly demanding affair, a secret counter existence that no matter how fast we run always outpaces reality.”

“In his international survey for Newsweek of a variety of academic research in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology, Dokoupil identifies disquieting global trends in mental health associated with Internet Penetration.”

Newsweek’s “CRAZY” article says: “When President Obama last ran for office, the iPhone had yet to be launched. Now smartphones outnumber the old models in America, and more than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.

“Meanwhile, texting has become like blinking: the average person, regardless of age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, four times the 2007 number. The average teen processes an astounding 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 figure. And more than two thirds of these normal, everyday cyborgs, myself included, report feeling their phone vibrate when in fact nothing is happening. Researchers call it ‘phantom-vibration syndrome.’

“Altogether the digital shifts of the last five years call to mind a horse that has sprinted out from underneath its rider, dragging the person who once held the reins. No one is arguing for some kind of Amish future. But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not ‘just’ another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.

“ ‘This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,’ says Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford University who is working on a book about how digital culture is rewiring us—and not for the better. ‘We could create the most wonderful world for our kids but that’s not going to happen if we’re in denial and people sleepwalk into these technologies and end up glassy-eyed zombies.’

“Does the Internet make us crazy? Not the technology itself or the content, no. But a Newsweek review of findings from more than a dozen countries finds the answers pointing in a similar direction. Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, argues that ‘the computer is like electronic cocaine,’ fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches. The Internet ‘leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,’ says Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows, about the Web’s effect on cognition, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It ‘fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,’ adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It ‘encourages — and even promotes—insanity.’

“Fear that the Internet and mobile technology contributes to addiction—not to mention the often related ADHD and OCD disorders—has persisted for decades, but for most of that time the naysayers prevailed, often puckishly. ‘What’s next? Microwave abuse and Chapstick addiction?’ wrote a peer reviewer for one of the leading psychiatric journals, rejecting a national study of problematic Internet use in 2006. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has never included a category of machine-human interactions.

“But that view is suddenly on the outs. When the new DSM is released next year, Internet Addiction Disorder will be included for the first time, albeit in an appendix tagged for ‘further study.’ China, Taiwan, and Korea recently accepted the diagnosis, and began treating problematic Web use as a grave national health crisis. In those countries, where tens of millions of people (and as much as 30 percent of teens) are considered Internet-addicted, mostly to gaming, virtual reality, and social media, the story is sensational front-page news.”

“In April, doctors told The Times of India about an anecdotal uptick in ‘Facebook addiction.’ The latest details of America’s Web obsession are found in Larry Rosen’s new book, iDisorder, which, despite the hucksterish title, comes with the imprimatur of the world’s largest academic publisher. His team surveyed 750 people, a spread of teens and adults who represented the Southern California census, detailing their tech habits, their feelings about those habits, and their scores on a series of standard tests of psychiatric disorders. He found that most respondents, with the exception of those over the age of 50, check text messages, email or their social network ‘all the time’ or ‘every 15 minutes.’ More worryingly, he also found that those who spent more time online had more ‘compulsive personality traits.’”

“In 2008 Gary Small, the head of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center, was the first to document changes in the brain as a result of even moderate Internet use. He rounded up 24 people, half of them experienced Web users, half of them newbies, and he passed them each through a brain scanner. The difference was striking, with the Web users displaying fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes. But the real surprise was what happened next. The novices went away for a week, and were asked to spend a total of five hours online and then return for another scan. ‘The naive subjects had already rewired their brains,’ he later wrote, musing darkly about what might happen when we spend more time online. “The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter,’ namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy.’”

“A 1998 Carnegie Mellon study found that Web use over a two-year period was linked to blue moods, loneliness, and the loss of real-world friends.”

“Web use often displaces sleep, exercise, and face-to-face exchanges, all of which can upset even the chirpiest soul. But the digital impact may last not only for a day or a week, but for years down the line. A recent American study based on data from adolescent Web use in the 1990s found a connection between time online and mood disorders in young adulthood. Chinese researchers have similarly found ‘a direct effect’ between heavy Net use and the development of full-blown depression, while scholars at Case Western Reserve University correlated heavy texting and social-media use with stress, depression, and suicidal thinking.

“In response to this work, an article in the journal Pediatrics noted the rise of ‘a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,”?’ and explained that ‘the intensity of the online world may trigger depression.’ Doctors, according to the report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, should work digital usage questions into every annual checkup.

“Rosen, the author of iDisorder, points to a preponderance of research showing ‘a link between Internet use, instant messaging, emailing, chatting, and depression among adolescents,’ as well as to the ‘strong relationships between video gaming and depression.’”

“For her book Alone Together, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle interviewed more than 450 people, most of them in their teens and 20s, about their lives online. And while she’s the author of two prior tech-positive books, and once graced the cover of Wired magazine, she now reveals a sad, stressed-out world of people coated in Dorito dust and locked in a dystopian relationship with their machines.”

“The latest Net-and-depression study may be the saddest one of all. With consent of the subjects, Missouri State University tracked the real-time Web habits of 216 kids, 30 percent of whom showed signs of depression. The results, published last month, found that the depressed kids were the most intense Web users, chewing up more hours of email, chat, videogames, and file sharing. They also opened, closed, and switched browser windows more frequently, searching, one imagines, and not finding what they hoped to find.”

“Recently, scholars have begun to suggest that our digitized world may support even more extreme forms of mental illness. At Stanford, Dr. Aboujaoude is studying whether some digital selves should be counted as a legitimate, pathological ‘alter of sorts,’ like the alter egos documented in cases of multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder in the DSM).”

“A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University is following a similar path. Late last year, they published what they believe are the first documented cases of ‘Internet-related psychosis.’ The qualities of online communication are capable of generating ‘true psychotic phenomena,’ the authors conclude, before putting the medical community on warning. ‘The spiraling use of the Internet and its potential involvement in psychopathology are new consequences of our times.’

“So what do we do about it? Some would say nothing, since even the best research is tangled in the timeless conundrum of what comes first. Does the medium break normal people with its unrelenting presence, endless distractions, and threat of public ridicule for missteps? Or does it attract broken souls?

“But in a way, it doesn’t matter whether our digital intensity is causing mental illness, or simply encouraging it along, as long as people are suffering. Overwhelmed by the velocity of their lives, we turn to prescription drugs, which helps explain why America runs on Xanax (and why rehab admissions for benzodiazepines, the ingredient in Xanax and other anti-anxiety drugs, have tripled since the late 1990s). We also spring for the false rescue of multitasking, which saps attention even when the computer is off. And all of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.”

The 21st Century Reformation Cross dedicated to the memory of Dr. Kurt Marquart, “The International Luther” emphasizes the three solas of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia (Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone).

Debunking the Sola Scriptura Myth, by Father Raymond de Souza, in the July 26, 2012 Wanderer (a Roman Catholic Publication), says: “Sola Scriptura is not Christianity: It is a recipe for a relativism!

“Luther himself admitted that his revolution has produced a doctrinal chaos, but he was much too proud to admit he had been wrong.”

“Sola Scriptura made Christianity become meaningless as an objective message. The sentence in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy will be done’ became ‘My will be done.’

“It is no longer Christianity; it is religious relativism. It is just biblical make-believe. “Next article: Sola Scriptura is unscriptural. + + + “(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International [HLI], president of the Sacred Heart Institute and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. His web site is:”

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