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What has the new wave cost us?

We are children of this present age and whatever we do should reflect the spirit of our time. Living in the present with a mind from the past is often linked to being outdated and this is true depending on where we stand.

But before getting any deeper into the topic, let’s begin with a story. You may find some similarities with what you have already read or seen somewhere else.

There was a man who used to laugh at his wife, often criticising her for choosing old ways instead of going for new technologies:

Newspapers: Oh Martha... Still reading the news this way? Just download the app on your tablet or phone and you have whatever you want... Very easy... Save the environment please!

Books: Why are you still reading books the old fashion way? They are heavy and not practical. Use this app to buy books online dear... Very practical...

Pen and paper: I do not understand why you are still living in the past… Poor Martha! The tablet can facilitate all this. You are just stubborn…

Result: Once the man was in the toilet and ran out of toilet paper. Visibly annoyed, he shouted: “Martha, no toilet paper, please...!”

To help him out, Martha took the tablet he had left on the table, downloaded a picture of a roll of toilet paper and passed it under the door... Imagine the man’s reaction! Old ways aren’t always bad ways.

As it goes with all stories, this one has its limits. But limits are a way to continue and improve our judgments. We all know that our present world offers us tools and ways to have a better life.

Every day (or almost every day) something new is added to our carts: new apps, new tests and inventions or phones with improved performance. The list seems to be endless.

The way we used to go shopping in the past is different from the new way: with a phone, we can order something and save time and energy. Why go to a library when we know that Google can do it for us?

Is it important to use a diary when we can use a phone to save an event and set a reminder until the year 2025 or beyond? 

Is it necessary to have a bible in the house when with a single click on a phone can provide as many bible versions as we could possibly want?

I could continue and I hear lot of those questions chatting with young people and other students.

We know that in many cases the problem is not with the inventions or inventors themselves, but with the way we use those inventions to get what we want. We fall into a trap without realising it.

The story shows how the new wave has impacted on our lives in many ways. But the story is just a way for us to stop for a while and think a bit about who we have become.

I understand we need to adjust to the times in order to work more efficiently. Those who work for certain companies always need to have their phones or tablets with them, except perhaps when they are asleep, as missing a call may cost the company they work for a lot.

They need those tools to receive or make updates. Staying alert is the motto.

Honestly, we need these people to enjoy our lives the way we do. For example, an app without updates is a dead app. We often go to Google Play or some such thing to look for updates or install new apps, but do we ever wonder how the people behind those apps work?

As a matter of fact, they need to remain constantly alert. Some of us give bad reviews to apps that are not frequently updated. 

Let us also try something new: think of the people behind the apps we cherish and, if we can, make a wish that they will be constantly inspired.

We could say, “Why should I thank those people? They are just doing their job and get a lot of money from their work.” Yes, but…

Taking a totally different perspective, let us have a look at the way people communicate nowadays: children are often encouraged to play with their phones or tablets to keep calm or to avoid being naughty while adults are talking about serious matters.

At restaurants, this is more obvious: while adults are eating and chatting with friends and family, children eat their phones, with no connection to the others. 

Try to ask why and you will find yourself in front of an ocean of possibilities—it is good for them to be calm—it is a way for them to keep themselves from running around—it stops them being bored.

True! But what about enjoying themselves with the others, talking to people in order to build up a network or a community of people who care for the others?

The answer—they will understand later. And the question—is there any meaningful later without a better today? 

I always believe that playing is good and helpful for the body, but we should be careful not to let people lock themselves so easily in their own world.

If we wonder why today’s youngsters do not easily open up and share what is hidden deep inside their hearts, we should also be able to go to the origin of the problem and address it in a more helpful manner.

Have you ever heard of or come across people who are in the same room, but at the same time are sending each other messages through WhatsApp or Facebook? 

What’s the explanation: dumb or deaf—fear or protection? In other places, you see groups of people together, but all of them are well focussed on their phones. I wonder if this is a new definition of the word together.

In this case, are we going to blame WhatsApp or Facebook creators or ourselves? 

Sometimes the easiest way is to put the blame on gadgets or tools while forgetting about the people using them. 

Tools do not use themselves. People use them.

I remember a confrère of mine who made us laugh one day, saying that the best way to deal with us would be to paint red lines on the roads to guide the traffic, because people look down than up.

And friend of mine shared, “In the past we went to a bar to drink, but now we go to use our phones; we used to go to a disco to dance, but now we go to play with our phones; we dated friends to enjoy time and meal, but now we enjoy our phones; we used to talk, but now we send voice messages, even though the other person is right there. Why don’t we call direct? Frankly, where are we going?”

Good question, where are we going…

Again, examples could fill a book and this sharing is not an apology of a certain past, but a contribution to a topic that can give us a chance to see the bigger picture. 

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a gift to be enjoyed.

The author of this line deserves some consideration. And to enjoy it, we need to make some choices…

• Father Dominique Mukonda CICM