We have genuinely lost touch with what it means to be human beings living amongst other human beings. Our shoulders have become slightly more and more hunched as we look down at our phones while at dinner with our spouses, or while on the bus, or train, or in the passenger seat of the car. We are so driven by information and media that we consume it and spew it faster than it can even be produced (which is actually a break-neck speed these days).
The ramifications of this are broad and sweeping. First, we don’t have a human filter for the information that we receive. What I mean by that is, we are so disconnected and yet saturated by information that we don’t have anyone that we actually personally know that we can filter that information through…that is typically called a friend. Like, say, a friend who is a doctor, to whom you can ask his opinion on vaccinations. Or, a friend who is a painter, who can tell you if a painting you like is crap or not. Or, a friend who is a different religion/race than you, who can tell you if what you saw on CNN is true, false, or somewhere in between. When our best friend fits in the palm of our own hand (i.e. our phone) we no longer feel the need to have actual human friends who can put a face on a story that we read.
For example, I was talking with my friend Mahmoud one day about the Qur’an. I had been reading it and noticed that in one chapter it tells Muslims that Christians are dearest and closest in heart to them, and then in the following chapter it calls Christians people who are never to be trusted. I asked him why the contradiction? I didn’t go to the internet and say, “Hey, internet, what’s up with this contradiction?” and then read a bunch of articles that tell me something that I am satisfied with, either positively or negatively. No, I asked my actual friend an actual question. And he gave me an actual answer. And that answer led to an actual conversation.
Stranger things have happened.
Second, we no longer have to face anyone that we criticize publicly, or, rather we don’t possess a tactfulness-filter any longer. We can say whatever we want to and remain completely anonymous at the same time. I can tell Kanye, directly through Twitter, that he’s the dumbest person on the planet, and yet receive no feedback at all on the comment. I just send it out into the Twittersphere and let it ride. This is not real. If I saw Kanye walking alone down the street in Chicago, unless I were a total idiot, I would never share my opinion to his face. Our social media outlets have led us to be socially disconnected, and socially inept.
Again, an example: On this blog, I received a comment a few weeks back when I wrote about non-violence. The comment was made by the cleverly named ‘Yura Joke” (anonymity), and it proceeded to tell me that the only solution to ISIS is to blow them off the face of the earth, followed by a call for me to move to Syria and see if I actually believe in love and peace then.
Really!? Yura Joke, you’re a joke. You would absolutely never say that directly to me, but now that we have millions of miles of internet between us, you feel free to say anything. And, I, in the comfy confines of my basement right now feel comfortable telling Yura Joke that he/she is a joke. I would absolutely never do that in person!
Our media culture has deprived us of actual culture – of places where you can go and ask “What’s the good word?” and actually get an answer about something you didn’t know about yet.
We don’t have community.
We have the internet.
The irony of all of this is that I am utilizing the internet in order to write this. How dumb am I?
My encouragement to you is to take a moment, look up from your phone, say hello to someone within earshot, and find out their story. You just might find a new human filter, or rather, a friend.