December 12, 2012. A message from Pope Benedict XVI: “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.” While not exactly an early adopter or a trendsetter, the Catholic Church can be surprisingly agile when it comes to using technology.
For the Church, technology is just a means, and when it comes to this subject, the nexus is still on human dignity. Early on, the Church was already cautiously cognizant of the far-ranging effects of social media. In his address to the Pontifical Council for Culture in February 2017, Pope Benedict said of social media: “…the new means of communication that encourage and at times give rise to continuous and rapid changes in mindset, morality and behaviour.”
Continue reading The Church on Social Media
By now it should be clear that I have a little project running with regard to this column. Instead of random topics, I’ve been sticking to one theme across these past few weeks. That theme just happens to be the dangers of social media.
I started with my experiences in shedding my social media accounts and the resulting mental freedom that the decision afforded me. Then I covered how some tech executives who were instrumental in the success of these social media companies were beginning to have serious second thoughts about what they had created. This was followed by the effects of overexposure to technology on children. I rounded it out with a piece on the physical effects of our gadgets and suggestions on how, based on my own experiences, to detoxify from social media.
Continue reading The Project
I don’t think I’ll ever be truly able to escape the clutches of my smartphone. Even after divesting myself of social media and games, there’s still a huge chunk of my day-to-day activities that’s tied to the system, not counting the actual phone calls and text messages. For one thing, I do my daily expense recording on my phone. For another, that’s also where I do my language learning — currently French and Mandarin — especially handy to have during the down times. And finally, my podcasts and audiobooks. I tried switching to a dumb phone but it didn’t take.
Still, I have made some changes with my relationship. I don’t keep my phone by my bedside anymore. Before I turn in, I leave it in the living room to charge, right beside my tablet. Now it’s no longer the last thing I see at night nor the first thing I see in the morning.
The benefits were readily apparent. I’m able to sleep quickly at night, and soundly, too. When I wake up in the morning, I am more reflective and calm. There’s that feeling of peace when you’re all alone with your thoughts, nothing nagging and persisting for your attention.
Continue reading Blue Light Menace
Now that we’ve started in the season of Lent, perhaps now is a good time to think about a digital detox: to reduce or even give up altogether our social media addictions.
First, we need to ask if this is really an addiction. Only you and those around you can really answer that question. Has social media become something you think you can live without? Is your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or what-have-you the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning? Is the glow of your phone or tablet the last light you see before you sleep at night? How many times in an hour do you check your timeline? It doesn’t matter what reason you concoct — even if you claim that you’re checking for orders or inquiries (have you ever worked this hard in your life, that you have to constantly check for orders on your phone?) — if your life is tied to your social media account, then you’re an addict. Only ruthless self-examination can reveal the truth to yourself.
Continue reading Digital Detox
My wife told me the story of a friend who took her family on vacation to Japan. As is quite common with many affluent Filipino families today, their two-year old had her own iPad, the modern-day equivalent of a pacifier. The mother recounted how the Japanese reacted to the sight of a toddler with her own iPad with astonishment. Such a thing simply wasn’t done in Japan!
There’s different ways to view this. One, we could say that Filipino children are more technologically advanced than the Japanese. I mean, look how they swipe and navigate through the iPad with ease! Japanese children can’t do that! So hooray for Pinoy Pride! Or two, we could step back and ask why they don’t give toddlers access to mobile phones and tablets in Japan. (Or three, maybe it was just the community they were visiting that resisted this trend.)
Unfortunately I don’t have yet data on the extent exposure of young children to technology in Japan, nor of prevailing attitudes. Maybe some further research in the coming weeks will reveal this. But what I do have on hand are the parenting philosophies of the top minds of tech.
Continue reading Children and Technology
I get it: it’s hip to be railing against social media now that everyone and their mother is on it. That’s conventional wisdom anyway. But what if, just what if, there’s really something wrong with social media and we’re just ignoring the signs because we think we can’t do without it?
What if it were the people who started social media — who made social media what it is — already warning us about its adverse effects? Surely that deserves a hearing?
Sean Parker, creator of Napster and one of Facebook’s first investors, made a bit of a splash in the news back in November 2017 when he announced that he had become a conscientious objector to social media. After achieving much success, Parker began feeling the pangs of guilt. Parker confessed that the design of Facebook was “to consume as much of your time and attention as possible.”
Continue reading The Social Media Cancer
I’m writing this on a Friday night, the last ritual before the full onset of the weekend. Immediately prior to this, I was sending out a couple of emails soliciting articles for Dagmay, our ten-year-old online literary journal, and chatting with my wife. Half an hour before that, I cleaned out the dirty dishes from the sink. And just before that, in between dinner and the washing, I took my skateboard out for a spin and read a comic.
So what is wrong with this picture?
Continue reading Mental Freedom