Stop the Dumbing Down of our Culture #learnsomething


My sister and I were talking Sunday about reading. We both love to read, and we both are not reading as much as we’d like. Her wise husband pointed out that she could read more if she would put her phone down. She tried it, and she said it was amazing how immersed she got in her book. I’ve been thinking the same thing lately and have been putting my phone up for longer stretches of time. I went to Starbucks yesterday, and I made myself look around, make eye contact (with those not on their phones or computers) and shop. It gave me a much needed break, and I felt better.

I find myself getting sucked in to social media for way too much of my time. Granted, I’m single. It’s a great way to stay connected with other people. For that reason, I will probably never give it up. It can definitely help with loneliness although sometimes it makes me feel lonelier. I am thrilled that we have technology because I can stay friends with people in the areas where I once resided. In my 20s and 30s when I moved, I basically lost most of my old friends. Sure, they were still there, but it was not easy to make time for phone calls, and there was definitely no virtual “visiting”. As time wore on, the connection faded into the not so frequent birthday card or Christmas greeting. Facebook has certainly changed that  for me. “See you on Facebook,” I say as I’m departing from a visit. There is no need for good-byes anymore.

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My friend Ann posted this article yesterday on Facebook about the show Friends. I’m not sure if Friends triggered the freefall into stupidity, but I do think this writer makes a good point that the fall started about that time. I don’t watch TV and haven’t since 2000, so I wasn’t watching this show when it ended, but I do remember hearing about the reality shows and wondering why the hell anybody would want to watch that stuff. It seemed silly to me to watch people living on TV instead of going out and living your own life. But, I’ve never watched a reality TV show, so I don’t really want to judge. I’ve thought about getting cable from time to time but I don’t know when I’d have time to watch it. I’d have to MAKE myself sit down and watch a show. I’m no longer wired like that. I go for a walk, get on Facebook or cook if I’m bored.

I’ve often said that if I could go back and do things differently in high school, I would hang out with the nerds more. They weren’t nerds. They were curious. They were interested in things other than their own bodies or those of other people. While I was getting abusive with alcohol and developing a pretty strong codependent streak, they were out learning computers, studying about politics, traveling abroad and reading. They were building their minds instead of numbing them out. And I’ve found over the years that the best antidote to an addiction is filling your mind – and your calendar – with things that expand your horizons and grow you spiritually, intellectually and physically. We humans are wired to learn and grow. Numbing out just makes us psychotic.

This morning this Ted Talk appeared in my inbox. I like trying things for 30 days, too. I learn a lot about myself, my body and my development. And sometimes I learn a lot about a new subject.

When I took the backpacking course last year, it opened up a whole world of new information, new people and new adventures. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it forever. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever I learned during this last six months will stick with me forever. I’m changed because of the experience. Matt Cutts says by taking a photo a day for 30 days, he remembers exactly what he was doing when he took those pictures. I can barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but he has 30 days of memories tied to pictures that he will remember forever.

David Hopkins – in the Friends article – provides four things you can do to stop the dumbing down of America … and, most importantly, yourself. (Excuse the French… these are his words.)

  • Read a fucking book
  • Learn something
  • Stop buying so much shit
  • Protect the nerds

I’ve actually found that by not watching TV, I have stopped buying so much stuff. When I watched HGTV all the time, I hated my house. I had all kinds of projects on my “to do” list. When I quit watching it, my house was fine. All of this external stuff provides opportunity for exposure to marketing which is psychologically programming us to buy … buy … buy. If I’m not buying anything, I have more money and time to read books or take classes. And the more I learn, the more I become interested in the nerds. Maybe you don’t need to quit watching TV but perhaps a stronger focus on actually living would enliven your life and your mind.

So, what would you like to try for 30 days to see if it changes your life … or, better yet …. you?



3 Comments on “Stop the Dumbing Down of our Culture #learnsomething

  1. Great blog, Sharon! I think I would like to spend at least one hour each day for the next 30 days reading something worthwhile. For the next week, it will be my own writing — my thesis — as I prepare to defend. After that, I want to spend that time reading something other than Facebook posts. I want to get back to the old me, the one who loves to reads, and who reads everything. I want to consciously NOT watch TV or play on the internet (Yes, I intentionally neglected to capitalize the internet; I got the memo!) I am also spending some time each day exercising my body. I believe that if I exercise my mind and my body everyday, I will feel better. We’ll see!

    • Wow! Sounds like a great plan! I can’t wait to see/hear how you are different at the end. I was trying to think of a goal for myself. I like the reading for an hour. I may land on that one.

  2. I made a list of 30 books I wanted to read before I turn 30 next year; it grew to 52. But since the list started last month, I’ve finished three which is more than I read all of last year! And I agree with you on the tv/cable thing. Save some money and time that way :).

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