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Social Media and God

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It is easy to tell what a society is deeply worried about by the entertainment it produces. In this case, it is clear that the proliferating amount of television and movie content regarding the dangers of technology is revealing of a deep existential angst that is felt throughout our society.
 
Take artificial intelligence for example. The idea that within a generation we may create machines that are fully conscious and much more intelligent than humans give rise to a plethora of questions and concerns. Show like Westworld do a good job at introducing some of the moral questions we may face as humanity, while movies such as Ex Machina and the Matrix trilogy give us a few examples of the dangers we may face as a civilization during a potential artificial intelligence (AI) revolution.
 
It makes complete sense why there is an increasing amount of attention paid to artificial intelligence. The idea that humans can “play God” and potentially create a fully conscious and potentially destructive being is downright mind blowing.
 
However, there is another form of new technology that is much more inconspicuous but equally as impactful in terms of how it changes and challenges us as a civilization.
 
The ubiquity and centrality of social media in our society is growing at an unprecedented rate, and does not appear to be stopping anytime soon. While I did not have a smartphone or any type of social media account until high school, this is nowhere near the current norm. Now, it is all too common for children as young as 8-10 years old to be walking around with their smartphones on various social media accounts.
 
I don’t think that it is fair to say that social media is taking over people’s lives. Rather I think that social media is becoming people’s lives. Recent neurological and social psychological research has attested to the fact that what happens to our “social media selves” has an amplified effect compared to if it happened to our “real selves”. In the real world it is rare for hundreds of people to give us their stamp of approval over the course of a few hours. However, on social media, via “likes” and “retweets” we are able to get a rate of feedback that is virtually non-existent in the real world. This unnatural amount of feedback can have both a profoundly positive or negative affect on an individual's self worth and happiness.
 
Of course, the recent introduction of social media into our lives has also occupied a large role in popular media. A recent episode of the show Black Mirror ( a T.V. series dedicated to discussing issues of technology) has at its premise, a society in which individuals rate each other after every interaction - inevitably creating a social hierarchy within that world. Similarly, the movie Nerve envisions a social media type game in which individuals can anonymously dare each other to do various types of acts, in hope to receive more “viewers”. 
 
Between the advent of artificial intelligence and the ubiquity of social media - we are constantly being challenged by the fundamental question of “how is new technology going to change us as humans and individuals?”
 
At this point, I think that it is helpful to rehash a debate and discussion that has been ongoing for hundreds of years, namely: the intersection between science and religion. Like most issues, many view the correct answer as a binary, ultimately creating a false and dangerous dichotomy.
 
There are those who teach that once we have science, religion becomes increasingly insignificant to the point of eventual disappearance. These people argue that science will eventually come to the point where we have answer for even elusive questions of morality and ethics. On the other side, many religious communities feel that science is a worthless endeavor. Religion they say, can teach us all of the details and secrets of the world, and science is only for people who have not tapped into the “true” reality.
 
I think that this recent trend in pop-culture attests to the fact that the truth lies somewhere in between. Science is invaluable when it comes to maintaining and expanding our civilization and place in the universe. However, when it comes to questions of how technology is to be used or how it defines us, we need religion and philosophy to help us approach our answers. Not necessarily religion as a set of beliefs or rituals, rather rich traditions full of narratives, ideas, and discussions.
 
Sort of like a 3,000-year-old version of movies and television.
 
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