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September 27, 2013

Question: Does “social” media bring us closer together or move us further apart?

Today’s question is posed as a polarized “either-or” situation, but the answer must be both. Social media can bring us closer together and/or further apart, depending on the content of the messages. This realization is so simple and obvious that it is sometimes forgotten or overlooked. Social media are not the ends in themselves that they have become—the frenetic quest for the latest hand-held device. They are, more importantly, virtually instantaneous, electronic instruments for reflecting the pulse of human consciousness: what we have on our minds, and more importantly, our hearts. Nothing less and a whole lot more.  

“We are all connected.” has become by now a pop psychology tag. It has been repeated in a dozen movies. It has been used as a sensitive, artistically rendered effective Bell telecom commercial. It is found in some beautifully poetic lines from Mitch Albom’s best-selling novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003).

But whatever the origin of  the saying, it contains a profound spiritual truth—a profound spiritual truth about the universality of  integral human consciousness; about the desire for the organic and spiritual unity that is devoutly wished by a world that is coming of age; about the longing for ties of solidarity to bind women, men, youth and children together, all over this troubled planet.

At their worst, when used for cyber bullying, a type of psychological terrorism, these media have led to the tragic suicides of the hounded, shamed, exploited and relentlessly harassed. They are used to engage in vicious gossip, to ruin reputations, and for purposes of  the sexual exploitation of women and children. They create conditions for addictive behaviours to thrive.

But social media can create a virtual community that brings us closer together, when they keep us in touch with old friends, family or new acquaintances, by the sharing and exchanging of stories, sayings, photos, posters, articles and personal news. Social media can help create revolutions and influence election results. Social media work best when pure hearts and informed, intelligent, creative minds use them for the betterment of humankind.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen September 27, 2013
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