THE DIGITAL ONCE-LER
Published in Issue #6 | AUTUMN 2016
A n d r e w Te m p l e
Progress, that’s what we strive for, isn’t it? The embitterment of the human race. Innovation
and technological advancement are to make our lives better, easier and more fulfilled.
Humanity, it seems, has been in an awful damn hurry. We want to communicate more
quickly, more effectively, insert emoji here, that’s it, the perfect sentiment. Never mind
the details, a winky face will do.
Are we happier, more content, being able to communicate so rapidly and well, successfully?
Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tender, Tumblr, LinkedIn; these are just a few of our
favorite social media indulgences. There are thousands and likely many more thousands to come.
News is pushed to us instantly all throughout the day and often, news that causes us to cringe.
I appreciate the value of being informed but are we more connected or are we muddled by too
much information? We are in the nexus of the digital revolution. George Orwell warned us in 1984,
so did Ted Kaczynski and even Joni Mitchell “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” I believe the digital revolution is not connecting us, but separating us from our basic and most primitive dispositions.
As a Father of two boys, I can share the difficulty of having to pry the digital screens away
and shutting off the tap of instantaneous and continuous information to have family time,
allowing us to connect and nurture our mutual need for togetherness. I am sure many of you can
relate. A dear friend of mine observes Shabbos at his home each Friday evening to promote family time without technology of any kind. And though his children may protest, my friend believes that the connection between loved ones and family is best maximized through direct and consistent interaction. On Friday nights, his family spends quality time playing “old school” games you can actually touch, they share stories and memories, and together enjoy a home cooked meal.
The internet is viewed by some to be like an Ebola virus. In fact, many of the landmarks of our youth are becoming or will become extinct, for example; music stores, newspapers, video stores, book stores and very soon broadcast television and cable may also succumb to its inescapabilty. Some believe this is the natural evolution of business and merely additive to our culture and that may be true, but we must beware of the extinction of our values. For every Yin there is a Yang. History is replete with examples of evolutionary social conflict in which now we find ourselves.
According to a study done by the Council for Research Study, “Adults are exposed to screens
(TV, computer, cell phone or GPS) over 8.5 hours a day, while children are not far behind at 6
hours a day.”
Dr. Seuss was a childhood icon of mine. His fabled book The Lorax was a particular favorite. The
story highlights the culture of corporate greed and what it poses to nature. The Lorax desperately
tries to save his beloved Truffula Trees only to see the Once-ler chop them all down to make a
“Thneed” because it is “a fine-something-that-all people need.”
What we “need” is each other, more than ever. The Digital Once-ler is chopping away at our core. We
cannot and should not stop progress or advancements in technology, but we can strive towards a
balance and keep our families connected to what truly matters most.
And so said the Lorax, “unless someone cares a great deal, the situation will never improve.” “He
then gives the boy the last Truffula seed and urges him to grow a forest from it, saying that if the
trees can be protected from logging then the Lorax and all the animals may return.” And so too may the things that make us truly human.