What a surprise! Technology, meant to save us time and effort, has opened up vast new worlds and possibilities that both astound and addict. In the last few years we have gained the ability to use our power to have an expanded effect through social-media marketing. We have the ability now to find, re-connect, and stay in touch with a huge number of friends, causes, and organizations through the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter. We can sit together in a restaurant and get an instant answer to any questions through Google. We can make greatly enhanced presentations through PowerPoint. We could go on. Unfortunately, our sense of how best to relate to others in this new technological world has yet to be formed. Joseph Firmage * speaks of this revolution in its broadest context: “The greatest revolutions science and technology have presented to us across history point to a fundamental revolution of the human spirit and ethic equally profound waiting in the wings.” We are the ones who must activate this spirit and ethic. (*Quoted and adapted with permission.)
We can help ourselves stay in balance and effective in our high-tech world by first looking at the ways in which our relationships are off balance.
In this regard, here are a few questions to ask:
- Do I spend too much time on the Internet?
- Does my Internet usage have an addictive quality?
- Do I find my relationships through the Internet are shallower than my in-person relationships?
- Do I get overly hyped up?
- Do I feel duty bound to respond to emails immediately even when the subject may require time for processing and being creative?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you’ll need to find solutions to bring you back into a healthy balance. Here are several possibilities.
- Budget and then schedule your time on the Internet. Use a timer if that helps. When it goes off, stop even if you aren’t done.
- Separate your emails into categories and deal with each separately.
- Because all emails look the same (same font and size), it’s easy for them to seem equally important. Recognize this phenomenon as a kind of visual tyranny.
- Make sure to balance your in-person relationships with your virtual ones.
Our local daily, the Boulder Daily Camera, on Feb 10, 2013, reprinted an article by Joanna Weiss from the Boston Globe titled “Your Boring Facebook Friends.” According to Ms. Weiss, some 67% of adult Americans use Facebook. However, a February 2013 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 61% of the users have taken a Facebook vacation “[because they were] too busy or just [weren't] interested [or felt] it [their usage] was a waste of time.” Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew project, concluded that “people are [now] making little mental calculations about how much time [they] want to devote to this, [and] the quality . . . of the material [they] get from [their] friends.” So, according to the article, we may be beginning to find a less compulsive, more mature relationship with Internet technologies based on our need for self-care and real-time, higher-quality in-person relationships with our families and friends.
Right use of electronic power is complex. As in all uses of power, the best is mixed with the worst, the vicious and the virtuous, and we are being challenged to find our way in a world of resources that gives us access to tremendous quantities of free information as well as annoys us with hacking and the difficulty of discerning the true from the false. Humanity hasn’t dealt with these particular issues before. Applying an ethic of caring about and taking action for the common good is one helpful way through.