There is a new Facebook advertisement on television that speaks to the fact that less than half of the globe is connected to the internet and how it is Facebook’s mission to connect the other half of the world. While I can appreciate the technological achievement that is set to bring the 21st century to the rest of the world, I cannot help but feel a pang of jealously for those who remain unattached to the digital world and wonder if they really want to be dragged to where we are.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love many things about technology.
I love the fact that today I can write my silly little thoughts out on this vast inter-web-y thing and maybe someone else will read it and enjoy it.
I love the fact new technology has allowed us to solve crimes that might otherwise have gone perpetually unsolved and has provided us medical solutions that have been used to save the lives of many individuals that otherwise would died.
I love the fact that there are so many people from my past that I have been able to re-connect with and that I have been able to initiate friendships with people who I otherwise would never have known. From that sense, I love connectivity. But as our world has shrunken significantly, there is a “yang” to the “yin” of good things with the internet.
Think back to the time before the internet; to the late ’70’s and ’80’s. Okay, yes, the fashions of these decades should not be discussed nor should at least some of the music (lets not discuss a good deal of the disco music, shall we?), but let’s focus on our lives in general.
These were times when kids were still allowed to go out in the neighborhood to play until dark; when the fear of potential injury didn’t keep kids from being kids and experiencing life in ways that seem in hindsight to be more full. A time when neighbors more often than not knew each other and there was more of a sense of community – of caring for and about one another – in the average suburban subdivision. A time when we were far less afraid of the unseen germs flying around in the space around us and inspired about the tremendous wonders the world had to offer us instead of fearful of the incessant “what if’s” of life. A time when innocence was not a dirty word but something to be cherished.
It’s not that there wasn’t anything to be afraid of, but somehow we dealt with these fears differently. The lessons our parents learned from the members of The Greatest Generation were still clinging to the way we looked at the world around us and we had not yet begun to blame everyone around us for the misfortunes of life or to look at one another with such critical, unloving eyes.
Now, as we have become more and more afraid of all that surrounds us, we have locked our doors and entered into worlds that actually doesn’t exist in order to satisfy our human need for relationship.
Instead of sitting at a table in the living room to play a game with friends or family we sit facing an electronic gadget to play a game in a world that doesn’t exist against people we have never met and likely never will.
Instead of meeting people in “real life”, hundreds of thousands of people create unrealistic personas for online dating and networking sites because the unending criticisms of the online world makes us all ashamed of who we are both externally and internally. Being online has given people the ability to focus on what may be wrong with someone – the opportunity to look for skeletons in the closet – rather than opening the door to possibilities.
Instead of learning how to engage with one another on a personal level, teenagers today are plagued with loneliness and depression they have not been taught how to work through challenges, find resolution to disagreement, and creatively come up with ways to entertain themselves without structure.
In this space we each feel as though we have the right to say whatever we want to in whatever way we want regardless of how our words may affect others. We point fingers, create division, and encourage violence. The vast capability of computers has given us so much in the way of information and interaction that we have all been driven apart from one other and we are intent on dragging those who have been free from the terror that is the bullying of the online world down the rabbit hole with us.
I can’t help but think how nice it might be to go to one of the places that has not yet encountered the behemoth of the internet and live in that simplicity again. To live in a place where social media doesn’t drive the decisions of the group; where people do still sit together over a cup of tea or coffee to share stories and laugh with one another without their faces buried in an electronic device; where the idea of “the people’s right to know” doesn’t drive every action and perhaps the idea of grace, humility and respect still permeate the way individuals treat one another.
The more I think about this, the more I see the information we glean from the internet a modern equivalent of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
Think about it. Rather than respecting boundaries put in place by those who do know “all” about given situations, we continually attack boundaries to get to the last tidbit of information on a given situation , shoving microphones into the faces of those who have suffered unbearable tragedies (forgetting, of course, that the political and social leanings of the microphone holder significantly affects the questions asked and the editorial process) just so we have become voyeurs into their grief but are then shocked and offended when other people want to nitpick our lives in the same fashion. We scream for freedom and privacy while crushing the freedom and privacy of everyone that isn’t us.
I don’t begrudge the people who are not yet connected their connectivity. I’m just suggesting that perhaps forcing this new, wilder, connected world into their otherwise quiet lives may not be the humanitarian effort it’s presented to be. Perhaps more of a humanitarian effort would be to allow these places to remain happily unconnected – living the life that has proven successful for them for generations.
Or maybe that’s just me.