With the growth of information technology, more of everyday life activity involves our interaction with computers and smart phones rather than face to face with people. Examples are doing banking, shopping, work assignments, and social interaction. The question arises as to whether all this involvement with computers, and mobile phones may be reducing our ability to create community and make commitments? Are we using information technology wisely?
Information technology and the global news network
Information is conveyed from one end of the world to the other swiftly within an instant transmitted through information technology on the internet and television. So we are constantly aware of another bit of bad news which is happening somewhere or other. Is the sheer volume of news in danger of overwhelming us so that although we are more aware of the headlines we are no more deeply informed about the plight of human beings?
Information technology and social communication
We can now chat endlessly on our mobile phones. And through social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as text messages and emails, we are able to read messages wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
A lot of the social information being communicated is relatively trivial. Yet more and more, there is an expectation that we stay constantly connected. You may have had people become indignant or suspicious when you’ve turned off your mobile phone, or not responded to texts or emails at least twice a day to suit them.
As a consequence you may be on constant call from those such as work colleagues and family members who can make demands on you without any time you can really call your own. It has become increasingly acceptable for employers to expect employees to be reachable ’24/7.’ Is heavy use of this technology adding to fatigue and stress in young adults?
How do you use information technology?
It seems that school children these days are spending more time on social media than on their academic work or talking to their siblings or parents. How long can adults go without calling or writing to others and giving them an update on their life? How empty would your world become by filling more time with chit-chat. What would you be missing out on?
Information technology and spiritual well-being
It is good when you connect with others in a meaningful way. But shouldn’t you also be looking for ways you can ‘disconnect’ from the minutiae of the world which is distracting you from the routine joys and sorrows of life alone in our own skin?
Sometimes it seems that just being oneself and doing our own thing can be boring. Having someone distract us however superficially from the tasks we are set can feel like a welcome relief. Or daily work can feel like drudgery and we seem to yearn for relief through a little entertainment, gossip, or even some nonsense that can take our mind off what we are supposed to be thinking about. Or where we are can feel lonely because we haven’t found a way of relating in any sort of satisfying way to the people around us — so we resort to listening to someone over the phone even if they are many miles away.
Is it not better to face up to the challenges where we are, face them bravely and find the peace and contentment that comes from being mindful of what useful things we can in the here and now?
Love of the world
The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg maintained that one thing that blocks our reception of the spiritual — for example the experience of peace and contentment — is what he called ‘love of the world’. What he was getting at is being preoccupied with the outer side of life. In other words putting first things like money, reputation, social status, being popular, the material trappings. Buddhists refer to the problem of being attached to the things of the world. The external side of life can distract us from allowing the spiritual side of our minds to open up. What is superficial can get in the way of what is deeply important.
You don’t have to go into the desert and give up all the comforts of modern living in order to find the spiritual. Religious people have said being alone with God is an essential part of their faith. Some people have gone on spiritual retreats and it has worked for them but you don’t have to go into a monastery with a vow of silence to enter into a state of meditation, reflection or prayer. You just need a brief time of privacy undisturbed by others in your life.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems