Technology, The New ‘Wrong Crowd’?

connectThis morning, I was reading I Corinthians 15, which is in my top 5 favorite chapters in the whole Bible. It’s all about Resurrection: Jesus’ resurrection, the importance of the fact of resurrection and then our own resurrections. It’s a huge YAY chapter.

Right in the middle, though, there is a ‘throwaway’ verse that in cricket parlance ‘knocked me for 6’ this morning. It won’t leave me alone, so I thought I’d process it right here with you.

Verse 33, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.”

Most of us, religious or not, were taught that principle as children.  We were advised to be careful of the crowd we hung around with, the people we dated, etc.  Some of us listened, some of us didn’t. And some of us managed to corrupt ourselves without any outside help at all. Yet we knew, and still know instinctively, that the principle is true, even for adults.

As a boy, about 11 or 12, there was a group of housewives in our neighborhood who got together for a weekly girls night out.  At first it was all fun and giggles as they would go bowling and have a few cocktails.  It wasn’t long, though, before one of them suggested they start going to a particular night club.  Since no one wanted to be a party pooper, they all, including the Christian women, went along with the plan.

You probably know where this is going. First it was just enjoying the music. Later they began to accept dance requests from the male frequenters of the lounge. One by one, the women began to fall into affairs with men they met at the club; each using the group as cover for their liaisons.

Eventually, one of the affairs was discovered, which began a chain reaction and the whole conspiracy unraveled. There was hurt, finger pointing, anger, threats, and some serious damage done to several families.  A few families were broken forever. Others, by grace and hard work were saved.  It was a terrible time in our neighborhood.

The same story could be told of a lot of neighborhoods and workplaces.  Court and Divorce records are loaded with stories of men who would get together after work at ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ where one thing led to another and the authorities and attorneys had to get involved. How many professional athletes have had careers and families damaged because of the crowd they hung out with after games or when the season was over.

How about those personal and relational messes that have become plot lines in a thousand Hollywood movies?  You know; the ones that start out as long lunches or lingering looks or a handshake that lasts a little too long, then moves on to working late together, private dinners and the expression of private feelings, and inevitably to a full blown affair . It sounds so very cliché, but it happens every day.

Yes, we can argue that there were other factors involved and character or relationship issues to begin with. To some degree, though, those are excuses, smokescreens to justify poor choices and bad behavior.  I know many broken men or women who, in their private moments, have mourned, “I know I shouldn’t have gone, (agreed to, said, stayed, etc.)”.

The 21st century has added a whole new, sinister level of complexity and temptation. It’s called, ‘technology’.

The crowd, or individuals, we hang out with now are virtual. Some have a living person behind them. Some are nostalgic. Some are fictitious.

We have televisions with hundreds of channels. We have the world at our fingertips on laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Gaming opens up a make believe world that can be so realistic, some lose sight of the differences.  We have all the privacy in the world and easy access to temptations that previous generations can only marvel at.

Millions upon millions, plug into private, virtual worlds, slip on headsets and watch, listen to, and  interact with sights, sounds and people we’d never have done if we thought someone (a child, a spouse, a parent) was watching.  The ‘bad company’ we are keeping is with ourselves and the World Wide Web.

Yes, yes; the web, cable TV, Pandora, and social media all have potential for good. I wouldn’t dream of disputing that. After all, I’m using several forms of technology to post this rant. But the healthy things don’t require me to be alone, watching over my shoulder, or creeping out of bed in the middle of the night, or shutting the door to my office.

By the thousands, alone with our ‘precious’ devices, we are slowly being transformed, like Sméagol, into our personal Gollums.

Cable and the internet have made the most graphic pornography instantly available to the masses, in living color, sometimes live, complete with sound and close ups.  The trail of addiction, heartbreak and despair, is wide, long, and bumper to bumper.

Video and role play games, have a long history of addiction, but have become so realistic, that people lose themselves in their avatars and forget which world is real and which is virtual.  I’ve read multiple stories of jobs lost because players couldn’t break away to get some sleep or go to work. Marriages have been ruined because gamers fell in love with avatars.  I remember one, where the gamer was male, but his ‘character’ and avatar were female. He ‘fell in love’ with her and wanted to marry her.  That’s weird by any standard.  His private, secret world drew him in until he lost touch with reality and ‘down the rabbit hole’ he went.

I probably don’t even need to remind you of the shoreline of shipwreck that is social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, discussion boards, you tube, and all the rest are loads of fun. They also have a dark side blacker than Darth Vader’s cape.

Attorneys and therapists have files fat with stories of lives and relationships shattered by social media. People connect, or reconnect, over the web and our minds go to work creating fantasies and feeding emotions that shouldn’t be fed and aren’t even real.

Pretty soon, the emails become private messages, then chats, then texts, then phone calls to our personal cell phones, then…

In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, he says this in verse 8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

How does the technological ‘crowd’ we hang around with measure up to that?  The television we watch? The websites we visit? The games we play? The Pandora we listen to? Do they promote integrity, wellbeing, harmony, family life, spirituality?  Would we and our technology crowd be the kind of company our Moms would want us to hang around with?  Hey, I’m only asking…

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