I find people’s reaction to various technological tools somewhat baffling. If your child is about to use a hammer, you’ll likely give her some pointers. There’s a learning curve. If it’s a power tool, the instruction may be more careful. When the tool is technological, we tend to fear it and decline to spend the time actually learning to use it.
I remember when I was younger people saying that television was going to be the end of the human mind. All kinds of rot would ensue as we imbibed knowledge through this device. Nothing was said about the particular use. Rather, the issue was the medium. There were those who feared they saw in television the end of civilization.
I suspect something similar might have happened when the first message was inscribed on stone, or when papyrus sheets were invented, and very likely when radio came into being. When something was written on papyrus that the reader disapproved of, he likely complained that this new medium was enabling people to say all sorts of horrible things.
Of Smartphones, Tablets, and Social Media
Now we have all of these wonderful means of communication, of locating data, of verifying facts, of illustrating our points, and of discussion and potentially dialogue.
When the material posted on social media or sent to us via the internet does not meet our approval, there’s a tendency to blame the medium. If we didn’t have social media, all these crazy people (not including us, of course) wouldn’t be able to say all of these horrible things.
What I see on social media, however, is very much the same sort of things that have been part of human history as long as we’ve had communication. There’s exaggeration, insult, outright falsehood, incredible stupidity, momentary brilliance, malicious content, and cute cats.
These things have been discussed around the campfire back in caveman days, and in church fellowship halls as recently as yesterday. We now have new tools to extend the range of knowledge and our exchange of it, and this tool also allows us to extend the range of falsehood and its distribution.
We use the tool. Unless we let the tool use us, that is.
The problem is not the medium. It’s what we do with it. Once of the key questions is whether we’ll learn how to use the tool effectively, or just let it use us as we go with the flow.
I was reminded of all this last week as I saw one of my posts, a link, get more likes on Facebook than the actual content had reads. Clearly some people had liked it based on the headline. Even honestly written headlines are deceptive! At the same time, once each week I join an international group of pastors and church leaders via the internet as we discuss biblical and theological questions. The same technological tools make both possible
Are you the master of your tools or are the manipulating you?