Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like were supposed to bring all of us together. Instead, they are dividing our society and reshaping our minds.
All of us are profoundly affected by changing technologies. Many of you reading this have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or may use other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. We take computers and platforms for granted, as though they always existed. How our world has transformed over the last 30 years!
The Internet is an encyclopedia of easily accessible information. Ask your smartphone a question and a female voice will come back with the answer in a matter of seconds. Now children can give orders to Alexa and Cortana: “Alexa, vacuum my room.” “Cortana, turn on the light.”
The benefits of these new technologies, devices and programs are obvious, but are cracks in our electronic media structure beginning to appear? Some authorities say yes, and are sounding alarm bells. For instance, there are privacy concerns. How much of our private lives is sold and to whom? Are Google, Amazon, Microsoft or others eavesdropping on us? Who may be hacking into our home security systems? But the concerns go further. What is this new world doing to us, and where are we heading? The World Wide Web, social media and the devices that make it all possible are changing how we spend our time, how we communicate and how we relate with one another.
Take, for example, Alexa and similar “digital assistant” devices. Some authorities are concerned that small children can become confused over the difference between real and imaginary people. They have concerns regarding communication skills. Who is teaching please and thank you? Who is monitoring the tone of voice and attitude? Are we training our children to become bossy—“unfriendly users” of “user friendly” devices? Will they relate with real people the same way?
And, is Alexa or Cortana replacing God in their lives? Consider this: “Alexa, ask meditation studio to play a meditation.” Your child may get what is described as follows: “Slow breathing is yoga practice that increases oxygen levels in your brain and expels toxins, reduces stress, boosts the immune system and strengthens the lungs and heart.” That sounds innocuous enough to many, but is it? Does it simply help one relax, or open one to Hindu practices and ideas about what meditation is?