When we open our computers, it’s our doors we shut,” is the central message in “Look Up,” a viral video eschewing the use of social media, computers and phones when living and experiencing life. I appreciate what it speaks to, but I cannot help noticing the profound irony that without social media, this message doesn’t get shared. In fact, when this video travels across social media – and it’s been seen by over 20 million people – it’s typically under the headline that it “must be seen by everybody!” Am I the only one to find that both funny and a bit sad?
The need for breast-beating is human, so I get it, but let’s not make more of it than it is. Like all technologies – ancient and contemporary – including the ones this video bemoan – doors are closed and windows are opened, opportunities are lost and new ones are created. The sharp dichotomies the author draws are (as with most such dichotomies) false.
That we have few wisdoms and practices to help mediate the challenges we face is a real challenge. That such needs give rise to a few new Luddites isn’t surprising. That we blindly allow our hearts to follow those fears is, I hope, not the next step we take.
I wonder how the creator of this video would address the mourners who find community online, the birthday wishes felt from thousands of miles away, the bridges built between people who would otherwise never even know of each other’s existence, let alone communicate with one another across political, religious, and economic boundaries?
On the most personal level, how would the narrator in this clip respond to my teenage daughter who felt – through the social media and technologies that are bemoaned here – the very real presence of her friends as she lay in a hospital bed waiting to see if she had cancer?
Instead of either blindly dismissing, or mindlessly celebrating new technology, try this: Once each day – perhaps when you log on – ask yourself 2 simple questions:
1.?? ?What is great about the technology I’m about to use?
2.?? ?Where should I exercise caution with something as powerful as this technology?
Like so many moments, especially those that are new, we habitually think in terms of either/or. If we could just step back a bit, and look over the course of our lives, I think we’d make the most of things with a both/and perspective.
I’m all for sounding a note of caution about the intoxicating, even potentially addicting, nature of communication technology. I’m also all for celebrating its ongoing power to make a positive difference in the world as a whole, and in the intimate corners of individual lives.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.