Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, and Life

I picked up the latest TIME magazine in the teacher's lounge today at school and sat down to stare at the incredibly unattractive cover which sported a schnazzy title: "2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal." Yikes. I wenton to read the entire article, which focused on the "Singularity movement" or how eventually computers and humans would "become one." Sing - gu-lar-i-ty: n: The moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.


I flipped a few more pages and turned to the "Life" section of TIME, which included an article titled "Wired for Distraction? Like it or not, social media are reprogramming our children's brains. . ."

And then, in "Money" there was one that introduced Starbucks' plan to allow customers to use a bar-code app on their phones to buy coffee in 6,800 of its stores.

Now, you might be asking what all of these articles have to do with each other, and you're probably scratching your head wondering even more so what this has to do with chastity for gosh sakes, but hang tight here.

Slowly, over the past year or so, I've been becoming more and more aware of the way that technology seems to be affecting my life, the lives of the people I hang out with, my relationships, my students, my job, and my life in general. And it's caused me to stop and wonder if the change has been a completely positive one.

Pope Benedict recently came out with a message regarding the use of social media, saying that the time had come to "urgently demand a serious examination of the significance of communication in the digital age." What was widely noted was the fact that the Pope encouraged the use of social media as an evangelization tool. On the flip side, however, I've found myself reflecting on the world of craziness that is twitter, facebook, Androids and iphones, and wondering to what extent these modes of communication have done good, and to what extent they've done some harm.

The "Wired for Distraction?" article that I mentioned earlier pointed out that researchers have found that on average a child spends 7 hours and 38 min. a day using entertainment media, and - if you add in texting - they are logging almost 11 total of hours of media usage a day. That's a lot - a lot - of media.

The author, Dalton Conley, says that children today spend so much time with the media that "The result could be that we pay more attention to environmental stimuli - Hey, another text! - at the expense of focus." He goes to say that he, for one, is concerned with the effect that "24/7 connectivity" has on his 11 year-old son. "School-lunchroom behavior - gossipy whispers, competition for attention, etc. - now goes on around the clock. There's no downtime, no alone for him to develop his sense of self." The article ends with "Hence my 9:30 rule, which falls into that age-old parenting category: Do as I say, not as I do."

The "24/7 connectivity" doesn't just stop with children or teenagers, as Conley admits at the close of his article. If I were to take a look at my life, I think I would probably find myself in the "24/7" media world. But do I want it to be that way? I don't.

We live in a blackberry-driven, iphone-loving, and texting-obsessed era. And while these modes of communication certainly aren't bad, and in fact do much good (as the Pope pointed out), they can also begin to change our daily interactions and affect our relationships. This past weekend my roommate and I spent ten hours in the car driving to and from a conference together, and it was then I realized that it had been a really long time since I had had a long, uninterrupted conversation with a person without having to compete with that person's cell phone. At times it can seem that facebook, twitter, texting etc. create a "parallel world" that can overshadow the things, opportunities, and most importantly the people that have been placed into our lives at that moment. John Paul II points out, "The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name" and a gift that has been given to us as a "task" and a "responsibility." Simply put, each person deserves our respect and attention before the text that we've just received, the email that's just come in, or the latest post on facebook. A culture of life is one that truly places the human person and his value first in our lives, and our personal witness to this is vital in creating and nurturing authentic relationships in our day-to-day lives. Obviously I'm not advocating that we throw out our cell phones or cancel our texting plans, but just to challenge ourselves to perhaps take a closer look at the way that we use modern technology in the details of our everyday lives and to use them well for the service of others.

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