The Soul Sickness of Media Addiction

I heard on the radio that prototypes of new glasses that will allow the user to search Google and perform other internet functions have been developed and sold to a limited number of programmers this past week. They’re not available to the public at large just yet because it’s inevitable that many other hoops will need to be leapt through before the market can be inundated with another ridiculous technological plaything. The lucky few who scored the early editions will spend the next few years working out kinks in the interface and whatever other glitches they discover. As I was listening to the description of these things, I laughed initially, thinking it was a spoof of American technophilia. My mirth flatlined after a while when I recognized that it was no satire; this is honest to badness real news! I felt my heart sink as I imagined the industry of gratuitous techno-entertainment tirelessly marching on to the metronome of online debit card purchases. 

I’m never one to say an item must have a tremendous impact on the physical survivability of the human race in order to justify its existence; that would be too simplistic because it would mean neglecting the emotional and spiritual aspects that make existence a unified, meaningful whole. Bearing this unity in mind, then, I find it hard to see how this technology could be a benefit to humanity because it appears to contribute nothing to any of these crucial spheres of what it means to be human. It seems to me that it would right out of the box become an instrument in furthering the subjugation of 21st Century Americans to electronic media. What niche does this product hope to serve except the media-overfed who would use the internet even more were it not for the irritating necessity of having to lift their iPhone? Or Facebook junkies that need their fix during the drive to work? Google glasses are most assuredly not the solution to an already existing media overexposure.

Most of us are already aware that media dependence is a breeding ground for soul smothering apathy, lethargy, and narcissism. Why then would anyone want to aid and abet that by adding more lanes to the highway to cyberhell? It seems quite clear that the question, “Can this be developed?” trumped the crucial question, “Should this be developed?” Therein lies the heart of my beef with the Apple entrepreneurial juggernaut- not some misplaced, Luddite technophobia (you are reading this on a blog, after all), or a naive, quasi-Marxist wealth redistribution envy (tried that already, and I annoyed even myself). No, I just find the ubiquity of electronic media debilitating to the human spirit, and I’m tired of people gawking at their iPads bumping into me in the hallway.

The first thing that came to my mind as I pondered this news was the dystopian near future pictured in William Gibson’s novels. In them he depicts a technological society run amok in which cyberspace becomes a narcotic in its own right, a street commodity with an underground following that understands it better than the desperate middle class who use it to anesthetize themselves against waking life. Users ache until the next opportunity they can jack themselves into their consoles to leave the real world behind and live as virtual gods over the internet netherworld. Working stiffs tune in and drop out via the vicarious soap opera existence of simstim celebrities with whom they share every physiological detail of their experience. The implications of all these advances in technology were never considered pertinent- only profits were. And so, though the bar of scientific advancement is raised in these stories, the human spirit is crushed and mangled into forms unrecognizable. Overblown comparison? I don’t think so. We already see the spirit sapping effects of electronic media dependence in our own day, and the grim portrait Gibson paints is only an extrapolation of our own present (actually, extrapolations of what he saw already taking place in the early and mid-80s)! What else can Google glasses signify but a ravenous technology addiction fortifying the position it has already won in the soul of our culture? We need a media detox to cleanse our systems and turn our gazes back to where they ought to be, the living epicenter of reality, the Lord Jesus. May he give us eyes to see and ears to hear true reality apart from these nefarious media goggles. 

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