Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slaves to Smart Phones

"Your  God is a hidden God and does not always answer. However, I answer quickly on  the day and time you want, and I will give you this godlike quality at your fingertips." This could be the reason persons have their smart phones with them, like an amulet, says a religious sister, who has studied media ecology and lectures on the subject, as she begins her article in the Kyeongyang Magazine.

She mentions that the word 'ubiquitous'--from the Latin meaning 'existing always and everywhere'--has meaning in  theology and philosophy and is now appropriately used for our smart devices. We become one with our electronic devices, and with them we can get what we want and need, making us busier than we need to be. Could this relationship be one of master and slave? she asks. Could we be the one ending up as the slave?

The knowledge that is currently available to humanity is staggering; within a few seconds and knowing only a few words we are usually able to find the knowledge we are looking for, and found quite literally at our fingertips. What difference  is there in drawing  information from our brains or from our smart device? she wonders. With the smart device, she feels we no longer need to go deeply into what we intend to know, no need to read as in the past. If we only remember a few words, that is enough, she says, to make us feel as if we can know everything there is to be known.

With the right software application, we can even find such mundane things as a department store, any public building, any place we would like to visit; there is no need to ask anybody for a location. There are programs that will tell you the merits of what you want to buy. No longer do we need to be afraid when traveling. With our smart phone, we can contact anyone, even text messaging and e-mail, in comparison, are time-consuming. 

We also have what she calls 'telepresence.' The ego becomes all important. The social network services (SNS) have allowed us to see those we want to speak and relate with, but the other side of this ingenious service is that our receptivity and absorption in what we do is more difficult to achieve. Personal relationships and dialogue become less important. We become the center, seeking to satisfy our wants and needs.

God can be found "not in speed but in depth," as she puts it. The smart phone is not solely an instrument we use to enjoy its many wonders and then can put aside as if it no longer affects our lives. It can become, she warns, our alter ego or avatar, and SNS can become our home, a place where we reflect and express our real feelings, a place where we relate with only those we want to and in a manner we choose. The danger is that we become closed in on ourselves and not very Christian. On the day  we do change to a more human use of these devices, she feels, we will experience the thrilling sense of freedom.