“Digital screens not only make the cultivation of solitude more difficult but also, by their very nature, are inimical to it. They continually remind us of their presence through vibrations, alerts, and various noises, and Cory Doctorow thus writes of the world we enter through digital screens as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.” As users become accustomed to the perpetual presence of interruptions, attention spans are shortened and the brain becomes chemically addicted to constant stimuli. These physiological changes are at least part of the reason why those conditioned by their screens often report feeling lost, naked, or exposed without their devices, cut off from the constant digital feedback on which they have become dependent.
This constant digital feedback further militates against solitude in that the practice of solitude requires persistent effort. Digital screen technology, however, cultivates an expectation of instantaneity and immediacy that precludes such discipline. As educational psychologist Jane Healy observes, those “weaned on a media culture tend to have trouble taking responsibility and exercising persistence. If they can’t push something and make it happen, they don’t want any part of it.” By its very presence, digital screen technology thus not only prevents us from experiencing solitude but also cultivates in us an aversion to it. In a world where instant access, constant connectivity, and perpetual feedback are the norm, the cultivation of solitude becomes not only exponentially more difficult but also undesirable and even anathema…
…Again, the challenge is not merely that our screens make silence harder to obtain. While they do function as a perpetual obstacle to silence, they also, by their nature, condition us against it. They teach us that a life full of noise and devoid of silence is the norm. Contemplative silence thus becomes not only uncomfortable and difficult but also an abnormality that, in our aversion to it, we do not attempt to cultivate.”
-Dr.David Diener, “Digital Screen Technology and the Challenge of Spiritual Solitude” and “Digital Screen Technology and the Challenge of Contemplative Silence“, Classical Academic Press