THE DESPIRITUALIZATION OF HUMAN BEINGS BY INFORMATION OVERLOAD

 

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (T.S. Eliot)

Deep within the bowels of hell a demon was overheard giving these instructions to his team:

“In order to completely desensitize human beings to spiritual life let us feed them, through a hand held electronic device, continuous sensory images of little or no value, letting them think that the only real thing in life is the flash of an image that provides some small but instantaneous gratification, multiplied on and on by more images, until our subjects are not so much humans anymore but automatons.

Our goal will be to especially deprive younger human beings of any sort of real life, of any sort of real relationship with another human being, by enslaving them to a false life of sensory addiction where, even while walking in nature, they will be addicted to their hand-held machine and the illusion of real life they cling to within the machine. A hundred thousand images an hour will keep their senses in bondage. They will never be able to raise their thoughts to anything higher, or more noble, than the next image. Spiritual life will have no meaning, for it will have no reference point.

Look! It’s working. We are robbing these kids of their vital spirit. They are devolving. It’s like a drug. They need the machine to be happy. But it’s killing them. They are becoming soul-less human beings.”

Comment: Perhaps this diabolical diatribe is a bit over the top, but don’t think this isn’t happening to some degree in many of the young. They think the shadows are real, because they never look up at the sun. I care about these kids, and I know you do too. The remedy to this very real and serious problem involves the great Catholic spiritual principle of detachment, where we begin to control our desire for things that are stunting or limiting our true moral and spiritual development, eliminating anything which is immoral, and strictly limiting things which are harmful because they keep us away from other activities which are far more humanizing and God-directed. In the order of the human being, says Father Garrigou-LaGrange,  God is the greatest good to which all other goods must be subordinated. Prayer, then, is a fundamental antidote to despiritualization.

Pope Francis gives us hope that we can use our new media in a beneficial manner. He says that “efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.” In context, here is the full quote:

“Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise”  (From: Encyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’, no. 47).

In a recent study, The University of  Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that “young adults who use social media for at least two hours a day double their risk of feeling socially isolated.” Please refer to the following link:

Study: 2 Hours of Social Media Doubles Risk of Social Isolation Feelings in Young Adults

The Church’s greatest mystical theologian, Saint John of the Cross, talks about the purification of the senses brought about by placing them under the cover of spiritual darkness. In the spiritual night, we can see in a deeper way, just like at night when we go outside we can see stars light years away that are not visible in the day. Perhaps such a purification is just what the doctor ordered! Perhaps just getting out into nature, into the “real world,” would be a great way to begin such a purification. See my post (more applicable to adults):

Oh Blessed Night of Pure Faith: A Bird’s-eye View of the Spirituality of …

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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