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Twitter Makes You Evil

04/18/2009 Comment

“Twitter can make you immoral, claim scientists.” So reported the U.K.‘s Daily Mail on April 14. Hardcore Register readers will see this merely as scientific vindication of Melinda Selmys.

Continues the mail: “A study suggests rapid-fire news updates and instant social interaction are too fast for the ‘moral compass’ of the brain to process,” says the report. “The danger is that heavy Twitters and Facebook users could become ‘indifferent to human suffering’ because they never get time to reflect and fully experience emotions about other people’s feelings.

“US scientists from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California (USC) say the brain can respond in fractions of seconds to signs of physical pain in others.

“But they show it takes longer to activate processing of social emotions such as admiration and compassion, which are critical for developing a sense of morality.”

Said the report:

“Manuel Castells, holder of the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society at USC, said ‘Damasio’s study has extraordinary implications for the human perception of events in a digital communication environment.

‘Lasting compassion in relationship to psychological suffering requires a level of persistent, emotional attention.’

‘In a media culture in which violence and suffering becomes an endless show, be it in fiction or in infotainment, indifference to the vision of human suffering gradually sets in.’”

Melinda Selmys could have told you that. I told you before about her “Facebook quote of the year.

Tomorrow a new article by her will be up, “Scripting i-Dentity.” It’s also apropos here. She writes:

“Like a cunning thief, the devil replaces the priceless artifact [your identity] with a reasonable facsimile to avoid setting off the defense mechanisms of the soul. But what are the means by which men are swindled into giving up the pearl of great price for a handful of dust?

“The first is to rob people of self-knowledge.

“The man who does not know himself cannot set goals and priorities suited to his own personality. He must rely on the purposes given to him by others: the judgments of neighbors, the idols of society, the insinuations of advertisers.

“Self-knowledge begins in prayerful silence. ... But where is our silence? The modern world is terrified of it. Into every cranny of a second, noise is pumped. Cell phones, elevator music, televisions, billboards: We are overloaded with information about everything except ourselves.

“The corruption of human relationships requires a slightly more delicate tool. Certain psychological institutions believe that man is nothing more than a series of ‘scripts’ — ritualized behaviors and patterns which are a kind of compromise between society and the individual.

“The most serious implication of this is the idea that people’s behaviors can be modified by changing the scripts that they follow.

“The main engine of scripting is the mass media. By showing the same situations again and again, with only superficial variation, media consumers are brought to think of certain behaviors as normal or expected.

“There are scripts for first dates, scripts for office friendships, scripts for father-daughter talks, scripts for resolving marital strife, scripts for meeting new people — all operating on a very narrow bandwidth of experience.

“This is done quite deliberately. ...”

Read the whole thing tomorrow to see what she means. Part one of her series on identity is here.

Filed under weekend commentary

About Guest Blogger/Tom Hoopes

Tom  Hoopes
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Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.