Hatred + Anger + Easy Access to lethal weapons have once again proved to be a deadly and tragic cocktail. As The World wakes up to an unfolding tale of terror in Orlando, recovering victims and the bereaved find themselves caught in a nightmare they long to awake from. These far removed events, 1,000’s of miles away, are brought so close by modern technology and allow people to connect with concern, sympathy and prayer.
However, a danger of our technological age of instant info’ is of being so overrun and overwhelmed by details that we become paralysed from doing anything meaningful and disconnected from local face to face relationships and needs. Neil Postman coined LIAR, ‘Low Information Action Ratio’, which exposes the lie that ‘the more information you have access to the more able you are to act appropriately’. A hazard of constant connection to the world wide web, keeping up to date with the latest news, is distraction from connecting positively with people and causes in your own neighbourhood.
I spent 2 stimulating days at the Abbey Summer School in Newhaven last week, the main theme ‘Being Fully Human’. Technology (e.g. TV, phone, computer, car, spectacles, etc.) are a God-send and aid life and meaningful relationships greatly, provided we are intentional about why and how we use it, and don’t mindlessly use it because everyone else is.
Once upon a time families gathered around a flaming house fire to keep warm. Songs, stories and chat fostered intimacy and caring relationships. Along came the blessing of larger houses and central heating, and, unless careful, families spent less time together, members escaping to their own rooms. One TV in the living room encouraged families back together again, but as TV’s became cheaper and desirable in every room, unless careful, families are divided again. The arrival of computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones have brought boons to communicating, but also very easily become gods of our age, commanding us to get the latest version and to devote personal hours to them. All too easily this virtual living is at the expense of personal, face to face relationships.
Some people get annoyed that my mobile phone is often on silent, but it’s because I want to be present to the people I’m with and not constantly at everyone’s beck and call. When someone (especially a child) butts into a personal conversation, unless for an emergency, we consider it rude.
At Abbey School I met a Facebook friend, Paul, face to face for the first time, a great pleasure. I had the chance to catch up with several others whom I’d only been connecting with via email and not seen for years. I have a wonderful Facebook parish of people I’m in touch with, but, how easy it is to get sucked into spending hours on Facebook and not using it for the relational and pastoral purpose for which I intended using it. Unless we’re careful technology becomes the ‘tail wagging the dog’ preventing us from being ‘fully human’ in the way God made us and Christ showed us in his ‘fully human and divine’ life.
Some of my American friends tell me that the right to bear arms in the US is important to them. What events in Orlando show us again is that technology in the wrong hands or used to divide and isolate can be deadly. Lord help us to use technology wisely, well and in life affirming ways!