Are You a Person of Depth? – A Reflection on our “Shallow” Tendencies (with insight from Neil Postman and Nicholas Carr)

Amusing Ourselves to Death“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”
― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

A medium’s content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act.Nicholas Carr, The Shallows
…Not even McLuhan could have foreseen the feast that the Internet has laid before us: one course after another, each juicier than the last, with hardly a moment to catch our breath between bites.
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains

of little depth


What do people want? One thing they don’t want is to be shallow. But…

I keep thinking…

We’ve got a problem. It’s not a small problem — it’s a great big problem.

I’ve never met anyone who says:

“my goal is to be a shallow person.”

We like, we praise, we respect people with depth. We say good things about them:

“he is a person of substance; she is a person of great depth.”

When we say the opposite – “she is so shallow; he is such a shallow person” – we never, ever mean it as a compliment.

But, there are some pretty shallow people around us, aren’t there?

(I suspect there is plenty about me that is on the shallow end of the spectrum).

So that’s part of the problem: there are shallow people. And we all have our own shallow tendencies.

Yet, we all want to aim for depth, and we wish we could become people of greater substance.

Now, back to the problem: we value depth, but increasingly, we are confronted with short, sound-bite, tiny morsels of content. We read too many short items on our daily feeds… We don’t take time to read, or think, or plan, or ponder, in depth.

We are, in the words of Neil Postman, “amusing ourselves to death.” I think he was writing about our tendency to embrace the shallow.

It’s more than just a tendency. It’s kind of our default position. We default to…shallow.

It takes no work to be shallow. Shallowness comes naturally.

Now, one does not have to read books, or ponder philosophy, to develop depth and substance. But, I do think this is true…

It takes work — some form of internal, comprehensive work — to become a person of depth.

A lot of consistent, disciplined work.

Over the long haul.

I’ve got some depth-building work to do… How are you doing?


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