by Christine Ford
When was the last time someone asked you for your phone number? Do you remember stuttering and stammering while paging through your brain for an elusive number that you should, and actually used to know, instantaneously? God forbid they ask you to retrieve the phone number of your husband or wife, children or friends from the power of your memory. Does it seem fair to say that our use of memory is being high jacked by technology? Does it seem as if your capacity to recall is being replaced by a 3” x 6” piece of plastic and metal that you can hold in your hand and access just about any fact, person or direction with the push of a few buttons?
If you are in the 50-70 year age range, you have probably felt at least a twinge of this, even if you are a techy; if you aren’t a techy, the whole digital onset can be downright overwhelming. If you are in the 25-50 year range, you most likely haven’t given it much thought, as the computer revolution was simply a part of your growing up process. Most sadly to my way of thinking, however, if you are in the 3-25 year range, you have known nothing else and are totally dependent upon digital memory, the ease of instant communication and having a world of information at your fingertips.
In looking at the scope of this from my vantage point as an educator of many, many years, I ask you to think back. In elementary school, what was it you first memorized, along with your ABCs and 123s? Give up? If that was too long ago, I will remind you! You learned to write and recite your name, address and phone number, smoothly and precisely, from memory. Why? I am sure most readers remember some wise teacher telling them along the way “In case you get lost. How will the police know how to find your family and get you home?”
When I taught Kindergarten through 4th grade Mentally Handicapped kids back in Florida 25 years ago, that was deemed a necessary life skill; knowing your name, address and phone number. Now I find myself teaching much less challenged 7th and 8th grade students with Specific Learning Disabilities, and am constantly both amazed and appalled that when asked they do not know their phone number or address; they must access it on their phone. Maybe I am old fashioned; perhaps my standards are too high, but for the love of all that is right, shouldn’t a kid know their phone number and the street address of the place they live?
Total reliance on technology for memory is only one aspect of my ponderings. In my previous article in the September 2015 Edition of SCN, Prelude to Stupidity, one of my pet peeves was the focus; the dependence upon technology by encouraging children to gather facts and information and reassemble it into an attractive presentation while labeling it as personal knowledge. Then there is the infernal onslaught of video games which hold beautiful minds hostage for countless hours, not only of children, but of adults as well, sweeping them away into a virtual fantasy world of violence and power where time is lost in the blink of an eye, addictively squandering precious ability and brain power that could be spent learning, playing, reading, interacting, and exploring the world. Add to this the feeding of the ever increasing need for stimulation, visual as well as auditory, that is created by the fast paced bombardment of the senses, and you have part of what has added to the psychotic triumph of Trump in the Republican Party; but that is for another article. Finally, the Social Media aspect of the Internet can be the cause of pain, grief and harassment far beyond anything we experienced in the good old days when words were exchanged verbally or perhaps written on a secretive note passed student to student and hopefully not caught by that eagle-eyed teacher who never missed anything!
My concerns about technology, as wonderful and time saving as I have found it to be, truly haunt me. I shift from the one extreme of fearing that we are being taken over by an alien mechanized intelligence that will strip every ounce of humanity and beauty from us as a species to the other, beating myself up about being stubbornly out of step and allowing this advancement in modern society to take place around me while I wear blinders and attempt to ignore it. As Dr. Strickler has taught me ever since I took a deep breath and bravely stepped up to meet him in Naples Florida in 1992, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and it is my role as an Occultist and Adept, to sort it out and come to equilibration within my own Self as to the resolution of these opposing thoughts. Exploring the depths and complexities of one’s own biases can be both challenging and illuminating, painful and insightful, humiliating and inspiring, but it is rarely an exercise in futility; at the very least, it affords one a view that is malleable and flexible, rather than rigid and one sided.
With this article I intend to explore just a small part of the vast Social Media network, and the effects that this growing occupation of time and energy is having upon society as a whole. Before any such technology existed, it would take a conscious commitment of both time and energy to call someone or write a letter and actually put it in the mailbox. If the person lived a distance from you, those “long distance” phone charges per minute could really add up; phone time was a precious commodity; no such thing as “unlimited data”. Sometimes you had to call a person several times to even connect, as back in the day there was no voice mail; you just let the phone ring many, many times until you were sure no one was home and tried again later! And those calls couldn’t be made as you ran through the grocery store or waited to pick your kids up from school; you had to be tied to a landline or a payphone to reach them.
There is no denying that the convenience of mobile phones and the internet for quick communication is a positive advancement. I can call my 92 year old mom every day as I drive to school and have a leisurely chat with her; precious moments that will soon end. If someone needs something from the grocery store, a quick text assures it will be picked up on the way home. The need for speed of communication is definitely a plus when it comes to the use of cell phones, as well as the internet to connect with others, manage bank accounts, pay bills, do online shopping and research topics of interest, just to name a few. Time is saved, trips are eliminated, thoughts and love are exchanged, bills are managed, gifts and necessities are selected and paid for from the comfort of your home; what a wonder of modern convenience. Yes, there absolutely is an upside to this! But what about the 24/7 work expectations, the hacking of accounts, and especially the ease with which Social Media can be misused and misinterpreted to create a nightmare of an experience when individuals abuse the power.
An article caught my eye while scanning the news, of course, on the Internet. Yes, absolutely, for communication of information the Internet is invaluable, as long as one reads with a critical eye as hopefully any information is read. Written in The Washington Post, And Everyone Saw It, is an easy to read article that I hope you will take a minute to scan before going any further. In short, it is the story of a 13-year-old, kind of out of step girl who was talked into sending a semi-nude (bra and panties, face hidden) camera pic to a somewhat more experienced boy, who was a friend of the family, who flattered her and whom she trusted to show no one. Her picture, along with pictures of other girls who fell into the trap, were then displayed on a large screen at a party as part of a “Guessing Game.”
An age old story, yes, but with a new twist of visual evidence, deceptiveness, shame and a trail of virtual memory that nearly destroyed not only her life, but that of the boy and several other girls who fell into his trap. This is only one story; I am sure this has happened repeatedly, as a complication of Social Media. What distresses me most, however, isn’t just the story, as it has been reenacted time after time, no matter what the state of media we have or don’t have, but the comments that follow it and the impact that the misuse of Social Media has had on our society as a whole.
To sum up what I read, there was the expected male viewpoint of it was the girl’s fault for being so naïve and trusting, she should have known better; the female take of the boy being a seducer and liar, he was the culprit; and many comments about the responsibility of parents to monitor use of electronic devices. In regards to the parental monitoring comments, all I can say from experience being a recess monitor for 7th graders is that a picture or video can be taken in the blink of an eye and go viral within seconds, no matter how closely the kids are watched. The thread of this being a timeless story, since Adam and Eve, male vs female and who was to “blame”, was often presented, and being the true Libra I am, I can see some validity in all of these comments, though taken separately, not one offers a solution to what is becoming the pandemic of electronic memory used to perpetuate shame, guilt, and remorse amongst not only children, but adults as well. These responses simply point fingers and place blame; they do not offer a remedy to the problem.
Looking at the rash of email and texting scandals involved with the political scene as well as celebrities, from Clinton to Powell, the infamous Anthony Weiner pictures, Trump’s most recent trumpeting and early morning tweeting about his disrespect for women, and many others, no one is immune. Hackers can find whatever they set out to find. If no one is immune, then what steps can we take to alleviate the anguish and chaos that so often accompanies full disclosure of written messages and digitally captured photos that were intended to be seen only by the recipient, not the entire world? The enormity of the negative uses of this powerful method of communication appears to be overwhelming!
As I pondered the casualties of Social Media, ranging from Middle Schoolers in a small town to Presidential Candidates on the stage of the World, I kept coming back to a phrase that Dr. Strickler has repeatedly spoken to me, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Internet, Social Media, texting, the Worldwide Web… all are powerful, permanent and instantaneous means of communication. I believe the correct question to ask is “Where does the responsibility for the use of that power reside? “
The answer is stunningly simple. Within our hands we, each one of us, holds that power of choice, and with it comes exercising the discernment, decision, and yes, the great responsibility to use that power in a constructive manner. When shirking this responsibility, we use that great power in a destructive way. There is no “fault”, no fingers to be pointed. Unless responsibility is taken, we all are guilty of the blatant mismanagement of power. If only the young girl had truly considered the possible consequences of her actions, she may have used her power responsibly to not to snap that picture. The young man, being overcome by ego, made the choice, the conscious decision, to share that picture with his friends, breaking a promise and irresponsibly using his power. The boys at the party continued in a frenzy to corrupt the responsibility they had to make the correct choice in use of power and instead opted for misuse. And so it goes…
Take a giant leap with me and apply this story to that of our current Presidential Election. Trump, the bully, the bringer of “Making America Great Again”, willing to say any words, make any promises and compromises that will put the power in his hands. Trump, the young man in the story; a smooth talking deceiver who makes empty promises in exchange for power. The weary, doubting, distrustful of the status quo citizenry, those opposing Clinton and hanging on to every word of General Trump, are symbolized by the gullible, naïve, trusting girl. They believe him when he says he will make it all right again; they entrust him with something of far more importance than a nude picture. They entrust him with their freedom, support, and eventually, if they get their way, the highest office in the Free World. In this mundane plane, I cannot think of any power higher than that of President of the United States. And I shudder to think of what the repercussions of placing a man so incapable of taking responsibility for wielding that power might be.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Think about those words again please. Close your eyes and repeat them, let them sink into your heart and mind. In how many areas of your life, not only with Social Media or the Internet, have you witnessed the misuse of power? Have you been the victim, on the receiving end, of someone else’s irresponsible use of power? Have you misused power for your own personal gains? Have you accepted the responsibility for the use of power in your own life? Have you spoken to your children about the responsibility that comes with power?
There are always areas to improve, to better use the power that is yours, and to use it with increased responsibility towards the greater good. In order to make this plane a saner, civil, more compassionate place in which to live, we, as a people need to take into consideration and hold in higher regard the great responsibility with which we have been entrusted by The One Power, both in mundane and spiritual realms, and wield that power in a manner which is in alignment with the Greater Will to Good.
Will we, as this great nation, on November 8, 2016, take the deep destructive dive into relinquishing our power to the self aggrandizing bully named Donald Trump? Will we, a the people of the land of the free and the home of the brave, trustingly send that photo that will forever change the course of the United States of America? I can only hope and pray that some semblance of sanity will awaken within the hearts and minds of those blindly following Trump before that day.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Think. Choose wisely. Act responsibly.
Copyright © 2016 by Institute of Spiritual Climate LLC