Giving the internet its soul
Sorry to sound like a spoiler, but I strongly feel we need to be leery of the flashflood of novelties and possibilities that the internet and other modern communication technologies now offer us.
We should see to it that we maintain a firm footing before this tsunami-like development that has tremendous potentials both for good and for evil. We should avoid being swept away by their notoriously delirious and self-absorbing tendencies.
The internet, just like anything else in life, will always be a tool for us. We have to be its master, not its slave. We have to be the ones to direct it, not the ones directed by it. We have to humanize and Christianize it, not to be instrumentalized by it.
Wherever I go, I see many people, especially the kids and the youth, helplessly swallowed up by their highly addictive properties. The internet and its relatives are no ordinary sweet poisons. Their effects are immediately deep, vast and massive. They can change persons and cultures almost overnight.
This is a very disturbing development. Even in my restricted environment of working as chaplain of a technical school catering mainly to underprivileged youth, I have seen how these gadgets can adversely affect the students.
Many of them, especially those coming from the provinces, who enter the school still largely innocent and even naïve, quickly acquire the ways of the wily and the sly when exposed to these gadgets.
I have been trying my best, and I ask all the other teachers, mentors and staff to do the same, to closely check on the students so they don’t fall into addiction and, worse, moral corruption.
In these electronic devices, pornography is just a click away. The virus that reinforces bad values and habits like vanity, frivolity, caprice, laziness, disorder, intemperance, disorder, waste of time and money, etc., is in pandemic proportions.
Truly, I see more clearly how education is not so much a matter of inculcating more info and skills as in cultivating the proper hierarchy of values and virtues. It’s not so much having and doing many things as being a better person. “Non multa sed multum.” Not many, but much. Not quantity, but quality.
Of course, we should not shy away from these modern facilities that through the digital system expand our world of knowledge and other possibilities. But we should be the ones to call the shots, not the other way around.
We need to be sharp in discerning when they are serving us properly and when they are exploiting us. Many of us get lost and confused in this duty. Thus, we need to help one another, and constantly clarify the true purposes of these devices.
Obviously, we need to pass through a learning curve whose initial stages are always difficult, challenging and usually accompanied by mistakes. But we have to perfect the process, going through the steps, in a musician’s lingo, of doing the scales, then the etudes, then the concertos.
With these gadgets, we need to go beyond the stages of just being amazed at the new big world they can present us, and at being just a techie. We have to see to it that these gadgets make us a better person and a better child of God, because everything in life has that as its purpose.
So, we need to ask ourselves often: Do these electronic tools bring me closer to God and to others, do they make me pray more and give myself more generously to the others, do they build up my love for God and others?
Do they develop my virtues, deepening and enlarging them to cover more areas of responsibility and concern? Do they make me more of a contemplative soul, enabling me to see God in others and in things?
If the answers are not a clear ‘yes,’ then we still have a lot of things to work out. This is how we can give the internet and the like their soul, an indispensably constitutive element that should go with them, otherwise, they end up using us, instead of us using them.
This duty of giving them their soul is a very dynamic process that involves discovering new frontiers, since the task of knowing and loving God and others through them will never end.
It can be a very fascinating, fulfilling and rewarding adventure, whose end is actually already marked out, but whose way has to be worked out still by us. We need to see this grave responsibility in this way.
(Fr. Cimagala is the Chaplain of Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)