Masters and Slaves

“Alone Together” written by MIT professor Sherry Turkle is big news because in it she lays out the case that the various means of social networking, via technological advances, have actually diminished our ability to communicate not enhanced it.

Well, forgive me for I told you so, but I came to that conclusion years ago… writing and speaking about it ever since. While I had no scientific data to back up my conclusion, I had eyes, ears and common sense. Admittedly, pre-technological apparatus… but quite useful none-the-less.

My observation was that when social-spiritual development is outpaced by technological development the result is alienation, dependency and in extreme cases addiction to the technology.

Why? Well, for two reasons.

First, because we are going to be slaves to something in our lives.  Now before you get all huffy about that statement, allow me to explain.  When I say “slave” I mean that we humans will spend our lives in service to something.  We will each select goals, or ends, and means by which to achieve them.  Without core ethical and moral underpinnings that support us in discerning positive means and ends from negative ones, we are easily seduced by the most expeditious route to where we want to go… however, not necessarily the most life-affirming route.  Core ethical and moral values are best developed over time, observing people who exemplify them by their behavior.

Technology applied to social networking lacks these necessary characteristics. In fact, it stands in direct opposition to them:  1) Its rapid, not allowing for a natural unfolding or development.  2) The human element is sublimated to the technology.  3) The physical distance combined with anonymity negates the behavioral aspect completely.

Simply put, social networking is a misnomer.  Its social alienating.

But back to slavery.

In Egypt, Pharaoh knew what he was doing.  In mystical Judaism it is taught that the Jews were slaves not because they were physically imprisoned, but because they were socially and spiritually dependent and thereby imprisoned.  It wasn’t their bodies Pharaoh took claim to it was their consciousness and their laziness (a/k/a wanting to get things the easy way). The Jews traded freedom of thought for comfort and ease. It is further taught that it’s a “story” in which Pharaoh represents the reliance upon materiality and physical enslavement represents unconsciousness (a/k/a) relinquishment of human consciousness.

I remember many years ago, pre-WORD, when I was working in DOS.  As my computer was booting up the hard drive, I saw the words “master drive ” and “slave drive” flash across the screen.  It gave me pause.  I actually thought it was a joke, albeit a dangerous one, originating in some programmer’s mind who then saw the potential inherent in the medium.

I am many things, but first and foremost I am the mother of a seventeen year-old daughter.  Anyone with a teenager knows the distance, detachment and danger inherent in the unbridled access and use of social networking.  The big worry isn’t carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritic thumbs.  It’s inhumanity.

So, many thanks to Professor Turkle for providing data for all those who need it.  As for me, I just looked around at the kids and saw the future.  It’s a time-tested method for discerning where we’re headed.

As for possible solutions:  Reprioritize your life.  Slow it down.  Be able to look into the eyes of the people from whom you are learning life’s lessons.  Be willing to do things the hard way.  Breathe.  Laugh.  Love.

If you’re going to be slave, choose a Master with a heart.

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