Losing the cultural self

The books we read, the dinners we eat, the times we enjoy with our friends: Human beings are a collection of events, a collection of laughter and indecision and so much more. What all of these have in common are the influence they have over our brain’s connectivity. Every time we experience something, for better or for worse, it becomes a part of us.

But what happens when we fray the connections to the outside world? What happens when we disconnect ourselves from the culture of living, which includes the spectrum of events, emotions, and built-up associations between personal reaction and physical event? The understanding is that when we avoid the grandeur of the real world and infuse ourselves with the online world, we begin to lose something vital to who we are. On page 197, Carr uses the last sentence to tie together these thoughts:

“Outsource memory, and culture withers.”

As Carr states, we must renew culture in our lives, using the enormity of living instead of the humdrum of the online world. Surely, the internet is fraught with excitement and possibility. To use the Web is to sojourn on an endless journey, where you dictate your travels, thereby creating your online presence and your culture. You, of course, create culture by what you store in your memory and what you give attention to.

If that attention is given to a medium predicated on speed and quick-reaction, we might be unable to build up certain facilities of our mind. That includes memory, attentiveness, and culture. The web, appearing as a benevolent creature, can drastically alter the content of our lives, both present and future. The entanglement of connections can confuse us; alluring as it may be, who we are and who we will become is hastily changing.

I think Carr provides a valuable point about culture here. On many of my walks around campus, I notice a trend of students with their faces down, locked to their phone screens, walking without a clue as to what is in front of them. This indicates an increasing reliance some have to their phones and their online, connected world. But as we know from this book, the more robust an internet user is, and the more robust their dependence on the online world is, the more likely a permanent alteration to their being will occur.

I feel a complete lack of culture in my life sometimes. Too many people I know are hesitant to discuss larger issues humanity faces, endlessly wrapped up in the shallowness of social media and what not. We are scared to set up a culture of culture, instead leaning toward a culture of lies and inner-validation.

The foundations of a culture prided on this hollowness are beginning, setting up a future where our kids indeed follow suit. So while I worry myself over this reality, I do believe there is a remedy. Engaging in socially active conversations and events, making a point to seek them out in the future, and repeating might blur the necessity we have to our phones. I like to think that there is a greater culture to subscribe to out there.



A picture from my computer (I believe it was one of my wallpaper options), signifying that through a cluster of branches lies the sun, a force of hope breaking through a filtered barrier. In this case, the loss of culture represents the branches and the sun represents a break from this disintegration. Hope.

Author: wkebbe

Reader and writer, trying to accumulate knowledge and remain curious about the unknown

6 thoughts on “Losing the cultural self”

  1. This was a really interesting article. I like the take you took on the book- discussing how the Internet brings a loss of culture among the new generations because they are more likely to be invested in their online world through phones than the world that is right in front of them. You also have a really interesting take on the image by relating the tree to what technology is doing.


  2. I really enjoyed this piece as well. I also talked about how students on campus are focused on their phones and that networked world but have a hard time disconnecting for class. This intertwined network we live in virtually and in reality can easily become blurred and hard to separate.


  3. You brought up that people are less likely to discuss sensitive issues. It’s something that I’ve noticed as well. Do you think its because people are too distracted by other things, like a show or a youtube video, or because it is easier to say things online. Though the internet is forever, and can be seen as evidence of character later, people may feel less attached to the things they say online and more brave, because it isn’t a face to face thing. Do you think this impacts culture and memory and identity?


  4. I recently studied abroad in London where I had no wifi majority of the day. I was surprised by how easy it was to go without my phone every day. Just as you said, I became more socially active with the people around me and the experience of life all around me. I think that your physic for preventing the ‘hollowness’ of society is a great step toward remedying people’s lack of interaction with each other. I know that as I get older and eventually become a parent, I will try to encourage myself and children to rely less on technology and focus more on the world around us.


  5. I would agree with you and use another example – people taking pictures/videos of things instead of actually experiencing them. I think this, coupled with you examples, is definitely what Carr means by “outsourcing memory.” If our memories constantly live online, or in the cloud, or wherever, we don’t actually have to experience them. They just become a reference of sorts, not an experience. Which is sad. But what can we do as generations are now growing up with access to this technology?


  6. The levels at which we use and depend on technology varies between person, but I think we could all benefit from this one idea. What if, for one day a week, we purposefully neglected to shut down all our devices and instead, talk a walk outside, or go for a car ride, or read a book for hours on end? Maybe a purge would help see our worlds with more clarity, and maybe we would return some power and structure to our days – where iphones and igadgets weren’t dictating our motivations.


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