In my last post I wrote about the bizarre nature of television, and the way the equally bizarre nature of the internet is far harder for me to recognize and understand. One reader posed a fair question, wondering whether we can “really have a legitimate discussion on how the internet affects our lives…on the internet.” In this post I’d like to take a stab at answering that question.
In this excellent blog post, Mr. Ravi Jain brings up the ancient myth when the god Thoth introduced the magic (technology) of writing to mankind. Thamus, the king of Egypt, is wise enough to recognize that, although writing is promoted by Thoth as a great good that will benefit mankind, it will actually weaken man by its use.
Now we might take the question about using the internet and apply it to the technology or medium of writing: can we really have a legitimate discussion on how writing affects our lives…by using writing?
When we pose the question this way I think it becomes clear that yes, we can still have legitimate discussions about the technologies that we use while we use those very technologies. Just because our culture is addicted to these technologies does not mean that we cannot therefore begin to enter into discussions about how to repent of our technological enchantment. A person who is under the influence of alcohol can legitimately question whether or not he wants to continue drinking in the future.
Even human speech, which is less a technology and more a reflection of the image of God in mankind, has its own limitations and drawbacks due to the fall of man; many lovers of language have lamented of the ultimate hopelessness of mere words to fully communicate all that we feel and experience as humans. Does the fact that language itself is inherently problematic mean that we are therefore barred from using language to discuss that problem?
I posed the questions I did about the internet because my wife and I are seriously pondering ‘unplugging’ from that very internet and taking it out of our house. It would be a “counter-cultural” move, one that would bring a number of difficulties–given how universally expected it is in our culture that one have internet access at all hours of the day. We haven’t taken that leap, but it is a leap we are considering. But I don’t feel like this prevents us from being able to use the internet to open a dialogue with others about the questions we are wrestling with. If anything, that is one of the beautiful and good ‘consequences’ of the internet–that it allows us access to the voices and ideas of people that we would otherwise never have heard.