The smartphone, both a boon and a bane in today's day and age. Boon, where it enriches our lives, keeps us connected and allows us to receive and share the world of information in a matter of seconds, but what happens when we are not aware of how this same device can be used to mislead and cause hurt? How are we as Christians creating an identity of ourselves through our varied devices of communication? Keeping this in mind, on 19th February 2017, the Communication Cell of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Orlem, led by Fr. Oniel Rodrigues, invited Fr. Nigel Barrett, Director of Catholic Communication Centre, Archdiocese of Bombay, to speak to our parishioners on ‘Social Media Ethics’.
Fr. Nigel took the audience through an understanding of how communication has transformed our lives today, and the importance of verifying and understanding information instead of simply forwarding the same. With a simple quiz, he made the audience understand whether or not they were addicted to their own smart phones. He also shared insights on why we as Catholics need to be more sensitive of those in front of us, and not simply living our lives in front of screens.
In addition, he also greatly emphasized on how WhatsApp has revolutionized instant messaging in today's day and age. While it has allowed us to be in touch with loved ones, it has also created a sense of being the first to report news, rather than the news being the truth. And we may have all been guilty of this at some point in time or the other. How often do we cross check any information, be it with regards to the society, parish or community before forwarding? News that is sometimes old, or completely misleading is forwarded to multiple groups without checking its authenticity. He also informed us about the Cyber Security law that was passed in 2016, which holds responsible even those who forward messages that can cause harm in any way. Furthermore, what about the multitude of 'Good morning' messages that are sent to everyone in our contact list? Shouldn't we rather make a call to them than spam? He also threw light on the messages that are forwarded that promise reward from God upon forwarding to call contacts. Our God is a loving God and our Faith needs to be strong, not basis such misleading chain messages.
In conclusion, he encouraged various activities within the parish community that encourage bonding for a day without smartphones or even try for a digital Lenten detox. Yes, technology is a boon, but let's aim to use it effectively and not become slaves to it!