by Ryan Stevens
The global shift toward a world that is more reliant upon electronically based information is often criticized or condemned as an addiction. This attitude reflects the inability to separate use from abuse.
One area of electronic advancement that is relatively recent is the advent of social media. An ABC News article argued that modern technology, such as Facebook, wastes time, reduces motivation, disturbs values, provides second-hand knowledge and exposes youth to personally destructive material. Technology has been blamed for bad spelling habits, and, as many students know, teachers are quick to require non-electronic sources for papers, despite a vast wealth of online information that is easier to access.
Often, technology is demonized and viewed only based on its negative attributes, but there are also positives. Facebook is a prime example. While frequently labeled a waste of time, Facebook provides access to relationships that would otherwise be extremely difficult and occasionally impossible to maintain. It provides instant access to an individual anywhere in the world, and allows for conversation and community completely outside the necessity of physical proximity.
Even further, Facebook provides an opportunity for ministry. My church is a prime example of this. After Sunday sermons, my pastor is able to post a comment about the sermon and prompt discussion about it online. Church connections can be made in ways that are not possible outside the realm of Facebook, and even people who are unable or choose not to go to church have instant access to the ideas expressed in a sermon. Even outside the church, religious ideas can be exchanged with people halfway around the world who live in totally different cultures and spheres of influence.
On a global scale, social media has provided an outlet for political change, human rights advocacy, news correspondence, collective thought and has created its own type of community.
Another device that is attacked because of potentially detrimental side effects is the cell phone and teenagers in particular are characterized as “perpetual texters” who ignore the world around them. There are many ways in which cell phones provide similar instant long-distance relationship opportunities to those of Facebook. While excessive texting can be admittedly impolite, there are ways to carry on a conversation with a phone without taking away from the life happening off the screen at the same time.
But phones are becoming much more than just communication devices. New phones can have GPS, radio, wireless internet, higher quality video cameras, connections to bank accounts and can even allow small business owners to run their industries more efficiently.
A phone not only allows for instant communication but can be used in ways to make daily tasks more convenient and efficient. In today’s world, we are often told that dependence on technology will undermine society and have massive consequences.
In many religious communities we are even told to fast from these technologies.
Excessive use of electronics is never a good thing, but almost anything in excess causes problems. Personal devices and websites are not inherently bad, and we need to stop associating them with those who use them to an extreme.
Stevens is a sophomore majoring in English and French. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.