Printing the Written Word

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While I may rail against the technology that seems to permeate every aspect of daily life, in all honesty I have many technological advances to thank for the comforts I enjoy today. My favorite is the printing press. Yes, I am going all the way back to basics here. I love the printing press because without it I’d have to be a monk to access a library of any consequence. My parents can attest I’d probably be burned at the stake for witchcraft for dressing as a monk just to be near books. To put it simply I love to read. Without the printing press we would probably still be in the Dark Ages, living in small huts, trying to survive on what our benevolent dictator gave us from our hard labor.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

The printing press began the Renaissance, which many credit with the beginnings of our rapid technological advancement. Suddenly everyone had educational opportunities not just the upper class. New ideas could travel swiftly from province to province; revolutions could steadily gain steam and depose cruel autocrats. The printing press essentially gave us the world of comfort we have. And while I may object to some advances in technology, I couldn’t live without my books, which give me worlds to navigate despite sitting in one spot.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

And yet I have another innovation to thank for my favorite pastime: the written word. The beautiful prose and exciting adventures I traverse through in the pages of my favorite books wouldn’t be there if humans had never invented writing. I’d be lying if I said I read classic texts as voraciously as the new dystopian novel but growing up in a Protestant church and school I read the Bible often. While it may not be the oldest manuscript or even the most interesting, it does put an originally oral history into text, which has been passed down through generations. It was my introduction to religious mythology, morality, and sensual poetry. The Bible, like all books, influenced the way I look at the world and, because I insist on learning my lessons the hard way, if I learned all of my values and history from my parents telling stories I probably would not be where I am today. Don’t misunderstand me; my parents are some of the best moral storytellers I know but I have a tendency not to listen, even when it’s in my best interest to do so. Books have a way of showing me the consequences of my actions before I commit them by leading me on a journey with someone I can identify with. Without the written word or the printing press I’d probably get into a lot of trouble on a regular basis but then again the world itself would be in trouble without these inventions.

Modern Friendship: The Reality of Media in Our Relationships

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The Greeks distinguish four separate types of love: agape, philia, eros, and storge. All four are defined differently but they all are based on the love felt in a certain type of relationship. Agapic love is the love between god and person. Philic love is considered that which is between friends and often demonstrated in affection. Erotic love is passionate and sexual. Storgic love is between parent and child. I mention these different types of love because love grows out of relationship but in today’s media obsessed culture where it’s possible to have a thousand “friends”, have our relationships lost their meaning? We can talk to our friends across oceans and mountains but has this level of contact really brought us closer or has it conditioned us to believe a like on Facebook is a fair trade for friendship?

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

To give some perspective one of my best friends lives in Thailand. We’ve known each other for close to 7 years and I can say with absolute surety that we would not be as close as we are today if we weren’t able to stay connected through Facebook. On the other hand, we keep in contact because our friendship is based on more than the occasional Facebook like. In fact we often joke that our friendship is centered on food but that’s a story for another post. Intuitively I can read the sarcasm in his messages and he can read my mood, but I’d argue that if our relationship were based purely in media we wouldn’t know how to read the subtext that reveals our friendship. We are close because we know each other on a cellular level and that’s something that media established relationships simply can’t compete with.

My best friend Key and I, all dressed up with no where to go.

My best friend Key and I. All dressed up with no where to go.

I’m not so arrogant to say that media denigrates the word relationship but it does change it. If everyone on my Facebook page or Twitter feed is my friend then I have to seriously consider my definition of friend. Is it a relationship grounded and grown in love or is it merely a way to show off when I’m having fun and garner sympathy when I’m down and out. I can’t answer this question empirically, therefore, I can’t say whether or not my relationships are made more complex or are deepened by media. What I can say is media helps me to maintain relationships I have already established in the “real world” and for that I am grateful.

The Battle for the Brain: Technology Versus Humanity

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I wake up in the morning to my alarm clock/phone screaming at me to greet the day. I turn over to silence it and immediately check my email to see if any of my professors sent me an 11 p.m. message with a homework assignment for class that day. After checking my email, I transition to Facebook, then the news and so on, all before I get up to shower. What is a little sad about this routine is it’s automatic, no thought process behind it at all.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Often I think about this conditioned behavior and I desire to unplug completely, to live in the rural mountains far from the technological overload. A part of me worries that I miss what is going on in the periphery as I chase a story all over the Internet. Do I miss the big moments of people I love, simply to chase the little moments of people I have no connection to? As the devil (technological overload) and the angel (time spent purely unconnected) chase each other around in my head, I’m left to wonder if we’re pushing towards a world similar to Wall-E’s. Debates rage on about whether the rewiring of humanity is positive or negative but no one denies that it exists.

I, for one, believe the rewiring has had permanent negative effects on all areas involving relationships. For example, Tinder, among other dating apps, is designed to introduce single people to one another based on geographic location. Besides the irritating shallowness of swiping right or swiping left based on looks, I am continually bombarded by stories about sexual assaults, vitriolic reactions to feminists, general disrespect of women and sexual trafficking, taking place within the app or as a result of setting up a date through the app.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

I am regularly disgusted by predators using the Internet to demean and terrify others because they are protected by anonymity and defended by like-minded deviants across the globe. Our laws are neither current nor stringent enough to prosecute these people and thus the cycle of violence continues. If we truly are pushing towards the world of Wall-E, I am terrified for what this could mean in terms of sex and relationships. In fact I’m terrified for the world in general should we continue to be manipulated by technology and brainwashed by the clever sociopaths who scan the internet looking for malleable followers.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

As someone who is regularly plugged into the world through her phone, I can’t lead the charge of rebellion against technology without being hypocritical, nor can I deny the benefits technology has given the world. What I can do is conscientiously object to the use of technology for perpetrating violence and demand laws that punish the culprits. I can be an advocate changing the way we use technology.