Sunday, August 21, 2011
Is Technology Killing Civility?
The answer to the question above is both yes and no. It really all depends on the way in which people use it. For example, texting during a meal or having a ringtone go off in the middle of a wedding ceremony can be quite disruptive and inconsiderate. People have always found ways to be annoying and/or uncivil. Advances in technology have just made it easier and more common to do so. It's unfortunate that some people think that talking or texting or Tweeting is more important than preserving another person's dignity. People forget that neither they nor their digital devices are the center of the universe.
This particular problem seems to be the product of a powerful combination: technology and human nature. A BlackBerry or iPad is not really the primary culprit. Technology by itself is amoral; it all depends on how and when we use it. Take any advancement or technological progress in human history. A pen and paper are not innately bad, unless they are used to write unfairly about others; a phone is not innately bad, unless it's used to speak lashon hara or interrupt a solemn service.
It's quite ironic how people originally thought that advances in technology would make our lives so much easier. In many ways it has, but in many ways it has not. On the one hand, the speed and amount of information we can absorb at any given time is the highest it has ever been. On the other hand, it was supposed to help people communicate with each other, but miscommunication seems to be more common than ever.
Technological advances to which we have become accustomed are all means to some end; they are not ends in and of themselves. For example, the Internet has the power to connect people to one another, but it can also have the opposite effect. It all depends on whether our online activities help or harm the lives and reputations of other people. We simply have to prioritize our values and focus on the goodness (or lack thereof) that results from our actions.
God created the world in such a way that whatever can be used for good can also be used for evil. Fire and water are great examples; they can either sustain or destroy life. Technology is no different. We just have to remember that it is simply a means - albeit a powerful one - and use it for good. As long as we keep this in mind, our computers and phones will not become false gods, and incivility while using technology will become less commonplace.