Sunday, May 25, 2014

Making Sense Online: Two 10-Point Lists, and the Golden Rule

Developing and using technology is part of being human. But if we don't use our brains, even basic tech can hurt us.

The problem isn't fire, string, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It's the all-too-human knack for getting into trouble mentioned in Job 5:7. (May 9, 2014; April 27, 2014; October 6, 2013)

The good news is that we're human: rational creatures, able to decide how we behave. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730-1742)

The Internet: Sharing Information Around the World

(From Matt Britt, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
("Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on")

My oldest daughter told me that map of the Internet looked like fireworks, or neurons. I see her point, particularly since it's possible to compare the Internet to the neural wiring that's in our heads.

(From Matt Britt, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Detail, 2005 map of the Internet.)

Bear in mind, that map is a snapshot of less than 30% of part of the Internet, a little over 9 years ago. It's grown since then. I think that's a good thing, particularly since I see information as a powerful tool: and underdeveloped areas are starting to catch up with the early adapters.

The picture isn't quite so rosy, perhaps, for folks who liked the status quo: and that's another topic.
I'll get back to what I mean by "cultural chaos" and "divisiveness:" and how I've fine-tuned my views over the last several years — in another post.

(From Jeff Ogden, and International Telecommunications Union; via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Internet users per 100 individuals, 1996-2014.)

Revolt of the Roombas and Getting a Grip

(From XKCD, used w/o permission.)

I've enjoyed movies like "Terminator" and "2001: a Space Odyssey," but don't think that we'll have a revolt of the Roombas any time soon: and that's yet another topic. Topics.
The Internet is impressive enough, without cross-pollinating "Frankenstein" and "Westworld." And that's yet again another topic.

Principles for Presence Online

A few days ago the Catholic posted Archbishop Eamon Martin's " '10 commandments' for Catholics online." The archbishop called them "principles," and I think his 10-point list makes sense.

Nitpickers take note: I changed the list's language a bit. The Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh uses British English. I speak American English: it's not quite the same language.

Here's my summary of what the archbishop said about how we should act online:
  1. Be positive and joyful
  2. Don't be a jerk
    • Avoid being
      • Aggressive
      • Preachy
      • Judgmental
      • Combative
    • Try Pope Francis' approach: 'tenderness and balm'
  3. Don't lie
  4. Remember to
    • Fill the Internet with charity and love
    • Give rather than take
    • Take a wider view
      • Include a sense of
        • Charity
        • Solidarity with the suffering in the world
  5. Take criticisms and insults in stride
    • When possible, correct: gently
  6. Pray in the digital world!
    • Establish virtual
      • Sacred spaces
      • Opportunities for
        • Stillness
        • Reflection
        • Meditation
  7. Get connected
    • Build
      • Relationships
      • Communion
    • With all Christians
  8. Educate our young to
    • Keep themselves safe
    • Use the Internet responsibly
  9. "Give the Internet a soul"
    (Pope Benedict XVI)
    • Respect and observe human dignity
  10. Be a missionary
    • You can "reach the ends of the earth in seconds"
The Internet is comparatively new: but the archbishop's principles aren't. As nearly as I can see, they simply explain how "the greatest commandment" applies online:

'Real' People

I Googled "most embarrassing," and found the name of a major social media site and "Internet" in the top three. I don't think social media makes people do daft things: but it may make it harder to pretend that gaffes never happened.

It's been a while since I read about someone getting fired because of a monumentally stupid blog post: or a public official explaining why he sent an obscene photo of himself to a staffer. Maybe the word is getting around: folks we meet online are real people.

Well, most of them. I've been accosted by a few bots over the years, and that's almost another topic.

The principle of reciprocity we call the Golden Rule isn't, or isn't quite, unique to Christianity. It's in the Code of Hammurabi and Exodus 20:12; and wisdom from Pittacus of Mytilene, Confucious, and Mozi. (December 15, 2013)

Our version is in Matthew and Luke:
"6 'Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."
(Matthew 7:12)

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
(Luke 6:31)
Maybe it sounds corny, but treating others as we want to be treated is a good idea.

The archbishop's 9th point, about human dignity, focused on pornography and human trafficking. I agree, treating another human being as an object, a commodity, is wrong. Human sexuality is a wonderful gift: when we remember that we are human. (Catechism, 2331-2391)

It wouldn't hurt to extend the idea of human dignity to how we treat others in all aspects of the human experience.

Around the World, 24 Hours a Day

(From Carna Botnet "Internet Census 2012," via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(24 hours of Internet use in 2012. Colors show amount of use, from red (high use), through yellow and green (average), to dark blue (low).)

Thanks to the Internet and social media, I've "met" folks from around the world. We've discussed issues and events; shared ideas; and, in some cases, prayed.

Since most of the communication is through text and images, it's more like correspondence than a face-to-face meeting: except that this correspondence can, and sometimes does, take place almost as rapidly as many conversations at a coffee shop or bar.

This, I think, is the sort of person-to-person communication the archbishop had in mind in his 10th point:
"Be missionary, be aware that with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds. In this regard, let us foster and call forth charisms in younger committed people who understand the power and potential of the net to bear witness."
(Archbishop Eamon Martin)
This week's 10-point list wasn't the first bit of advice on how to behave online, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last.

Back in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that we should "give the Internet a soul," metaphorically speaking. I'll wrap up this post with a summary I made of "Ten Ways to Give the Internet a Soul," Danielle Bean, (May 7, 2010) —
  1. Be who you are.
    • Pretense
  2. Cultivate silence.
    • (Comments optional)
  3. Use your name.
    • Your real name
  4. Treat people like people.
    • Even celebrities
  5. Examine your motives
    • When in doubt, be quiet
  6. Let God in.
    • No kidding: read this
  7. Turn it off.
    • Or, 'get a life'
  8. Don't defend yourself.
    • This is a sort of 'judo' strategy
  9. Pause.
    • 24 hour cooldown period advocated
      • I agree: in principle
  10. Be positive.
    • Not "Christian Pollyannas"
    • Don't
      • Preach
      • Argue
      • Demand
    • Do
      • Share Christ and His message
    (May 8, 2010)
Related posts:
A tip of the hat to Allison Gingras, for the heads-up on Archbishop Eamon Martin's list:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.