Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Are we masters of communication in the social media age?

It was startling to learn that some students at Yale would like to institute "conversation tables" in each cafeteria.  Apparently, conversations are no longer a staple, (along with cold pizza and a greasy burger), in the dining halls.  Now, students text ... "talking" to people who are not sitting near them.  Their hungry neighbors are ignored.  Is technology really assisting our communication and connection?

While speaking to a new campus ministry group recently, the post-talk discussion kept returning to the topic of technology and authentic communication.  It surprised me since technology is not generally the first subject people associate with Theology of the Body.  Yes, I had mentioned it a few times during the presentation, but it continually resurfaced with various questions: "How do you go from relying on technology to tell people about Ruah Woods to interacting face-to-face?"  "Will the next generation know how to communicate authentically?"  "Does technology help or harm purity?"

Amazingly, though not an explicit subject within St. John Paul II's work, his Theology of the Body does have a lot to offer our conversations on technology.  After all, he is speaking of the body ... and technology is an inherently disembodied form of communication.  That's not to say technology should be discarded, but it should give us pause.  What does technology say about the human person?  How does technology impact the way I communicate?  Does technology foster authentic relationships?

Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other" raises some questions about technology in her TED Talk (below).  It's a great conversation-starter.

My brother attended a Relient K concert last week.  At one point, the band announced that they would be performing an unreleased song.  Immediately, the handheld devices went up to capture the moment.  Imagine the potential discomfort concert goers felt when they heard the lyrics to the song -- 

I remember when a photograph was worth
A thousand words A thousand words Now a thousand pictures come my way, every day and I like them all the same but they can't take my breath away I'm fighting the temptation not to look
But I'm still leafing through the pages like the world's my open boo Why don't I got something else to do? Feeling trapped behind the viewfinder to share it all with you But that's not what it's about I'm so tired of missing out
There are plenty of questions to explore when it comes to technology and the dignity of the human person.  Look out for information about how Ruah Woods will continue these conversations next summer!

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