This is a good analogy for how many people use technology today. The threats are numerous when we use technology, yet so many people are not even aware there is any threat present. As Catholics we need to be wary of using any technology and understand that while most tech is morally neutral it can be used for good or bad.
The Good of the Internet - the internet is a valuable tool, which has brought unprecedented access to our fingertips at the press of a button. It is easy to find information, communicate with others rapidly, and has transformed the world in bringing many different peoples closer together. It also gives the Church new opportunities to evangelize the world.
The Bad of the Internet - Too many to name, but here are a few examples of the mines in the internet field:
- SEXUALITY & RELATIONSHIPS - pornography is continuing to run rampant over our culture. But, don't fool yourself, it isn't just a "guy" thing. 30% of visitors to porn sites are women and in 2006 17% of women said they "struggled with pornography addiction". That number has gone up since then. Then there are the problems with online affairs and other relationship issues.
- CHEATING - More and more students admit to cheating and don't feel guilty about it. It has reached epidemic proportions - "In surveys of 14,000 undergraduates over the last four years, an average of 61 percent admitted to cheating on assignments and exams."
- THEFT - "37% of people have downloaded illegal content" in Australia. Illegal downloads cost billions of dollars in our economy and are not "victim-less" crimes. Then there are the Ebay users who refuse to follow the law and pay taxes.
- ADDICTION - the Internet has fueled online addictions to porn, gaming, gambling, Ebay, and more.
These many issues clearly show that we are not only strolling through the minefield of technology, but as a culture, we are happily skipping through it, setting off mines continually - smiling as we do so.
We need to have a better understanding of the dangers, educate ourselves, and act with more prudence and care.
Technology is made for us - we are not made for technology. So, we must ask some questions:
- How can I use this particular technological advance for the good of others and myself?
- In what ways can this technology be abused?
- Am I respecting the dignity of the people behind the technology?
- Am I acting in a moral manner in all things?
- How are others abusing and misusing this technology and how can I avoid doing the same?
The US Bishops have issued Guidelines for Social Media use and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is trying to keep up (and in some ways failing to do so) with the cultural changes happening so rapidly due to technology.
Pope Benedict XVI said this in Caritas in Veritate (emphasis in original):
Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility. Hence the pressing need for formation in an ethically responsible use of technology. Moving beyond the fascination that technology exerts, we must reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being, beginning with our own personal being.As Catholics we must lead the charge in helping the world assess the morality of how technology is to be used for good. In doing so, we can help others know about the mines which are present in the field of technology, and then disarm them.