What are the negative effects of the Internet and electronics in my life? What are the positive effects? What are the negative and positive effects of technology on relationships in my life?
It is easy to blame the Internet for problems we see in society, from manipulation of politics to pornography, from computer game addiction to social media bullying, from scamming emails to young people glued to their screens while surrounded by friends or family.
But this is not new with the Internet. Television brought with it a host of vices as well, with people glued to the screen, compelled to put TVs in every room, giving each person a way to watch TV in isolation, killing family life and many marriages too. TV is still a distracting focus in many restaurants and bars.
What we need to see is this is a new area for us to learn to grow in virtue, which can allow ourselves to use this new tool to foster the good in our personal lives, in our families, and in society as a whole.
Every member of the family needs to work on this virtue, from mom and dad to the youngest child. As families strive to acquire this virtue together, it can be a wonderful opportunity to create more and better communication and develop stronger and tighter interpersonal bonds.
Purposes of the Internet and Electronic Devices
Keeping in the end in mind and the purpose of the Internet and the devices that connect to it will help us set good boundaries and limits to direct our behavior and develop true virtue. So let’s take a look at this purpose.
Communication Tool: the Internet and the devices that connect to it (computers, “smart” phones, tablets, etc.) are tools that we can use to communicate, to talk to another person, have conference calls, FaceTime, Zoom meetings, etc. Besides voice communication, we can text, share photos, use emojis, gifs, etc. to send messages to one another.
Social Media is a form of communication meant as a way of sharing for a particular group, such as one’s family, a group of friends, a team at work, or even a broader “community” of people who want to share ideas with others who think alike.
Tool for work: computers, “smart” phones, and tablets can be a way to access work, collect and process data, conduct meetings, and communicate with others in the carrying out of one’s work. Some people are fulltime on electronic devices and thus can do their work from home or from any location.
Educational Tool: likewise, electronic devices can be tools for learning. Some schools have done away with textbooks and use eBooks exclusively. Electronic devices can be especially useful for repetitive exercises, writing, submitting homework online, and educational testing and assessments, which makes individualized teaching more effective.
Toy for Play: gaming is a big portion of the field of technology, making it easy to escape from one’s worries and responsibilities. Many such games are geared for children. Games for both adults and children are often designed to be highly addictive.
Access to Entertainment: beyond the TV, computers, “smart” phones, and tablets now make entertainment content available anywhere and at anytime. Entertainment helps us put our day-to-day problems and concerns into perspective. Seeing other people’s mistakes can help us laugh at our own so as to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. We may also see others struggle against the almost impossible—sporting events have this too—to come out successful and victorious; this gives us hope. Some entertainment can be inspirational and draw us toward virtue and holiness of heroic people, yet it can also drag us into the gutter of selfishness and animalistic behavior.
Shared vs. Self- Entertainment: entertainment has always been something we share with others, where there is interactions with others even when no one says anything—you notice the other person laughs, doesn’t laugh, cries, cheers, etc. Shared entertainment can help build family bonds and friendship based on a common experience together.
Ever notice, on the other hand, when you sit down to watch show or game alone how the television locks you in, and what was meant to be only a few minutes ends up being several hours. When we consuming entertainment alone it takes control over us, and other drags us into programming we know is offensive and inappropriate. That’s self-entertainment.
My recommendation, avoid self-entertainment and use entertainment for a healthy purpose with others.
Exercises and Discussion Topics for you and your family and friends:
Exercise: For one week, track how much you use technology for: communication, social media, work, education, play, and entertainment. How much of the entertainment was consumed alone?
Please share what you learn with me if you would like: FrJohn@sma-Church.org
Fr. John Waiss