By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE have to learn how to cruise the digital world. It’s practically part of everyone’s life now, offering a lot of good but also a lot of dangers. We should know how to make use of it without compromising our dignity as persons and children of God.
This highly technological world introduces us to a virtual environment that is like a super-superhighway with much heavier and more complicated traffic than what we experience in our busiest thoroughfares. Its range and scope is not local but global, and it touches on practically all aspects of our life.
If in our transport systems, we need regulations like registration of vehicles, licensing of drivers with their respective periodic renewals, and other things like traffic road signs and traffic aides, etc., we have to realize that we need more or less the same set of regulations in our digital world.
Obviously, the regulations here would be more extensive and comprehensive than what we have in our transport systems. They should cover not only considerations of practicality and convenience in our needs of knowledge and communication, but also and more importantly, considerations of appropriateness, morality and spirituality.
Everyone knows that the digital world can have two effects. It is good to those who are good, and in fact, it will improve them. But it is bad also to those who are bad or weak, and it tends to worsen them.
Digital citizens and users should therefore be clear about their identity and dignity as persons and children of God who are supposed to be ruled by truth and love, and all their consequences of justice, mercy, compassion, and of concern for one another and for strengthening our relation with God, etc.
The ideal would be that every time they are in the digital environment, they should learn to see God there and to be motivated only by love for God and for others. They should ask themselves after using the Internet, “Am I now a better person and child of God with what I have seen and done in the Internet?”
Unless this basic requirement is met, one would enter into a highway that is a slippery slope toward all forms of self-seeking with their usual company of greed, envy, vanity, lust, gluttony, sloth, etc. Conflict and contention would not be remote in this arena. Unrestrained competition and rivalry would surge.
That is why, this identity of the digital citizens as persons and children of God who are necessarily connected with everybody else and governed by truth and love should always be protected, maintained and strengthened.
Toward this end, it stands to reason that digital citizens and users should be men and women of prayer, of virtues, of clear criteria based on sound human and Christian moral principles. They should know the true nature and meaning of freedom, avoiding using freedom as “a cloak for malice,” as St. Peter said in his first letter. (2,16)
Otherwise, they would be confused and lost, and an easy prey to the many subtle conditionings all of us are exposed to—physical, emotional, psychological, social, cultural, historical, economic, political, etc.
And since many young people are very much involved in the digital world, the elders and others of authority and influence should do everything to inculcate in them very deeply this proper identity and dignity of being persons and children of God, brothers and sisters with one another, ruled by truth and love.
These youngsters are typically highly driven by their curiosities, but with curiosities that spring and are maintained usually by unpurified impulses and peer pressure. They really need to be taken care of, but in an appropriate way, since they also do not like to be treated like babies.
If before a youngster is allowed to drive a car in our public road system, he has to have the proper age requirement, the appropriate physical and health condition, and has to be trained and tested, then it stands to reason that this youngster all the more would need a similar kind of requirements before he is allowed to cruise in the more dangerous digital thoroughfares.
This attitude toward the digital world should be developed first of all in the family, then in churches and schools, and then in other public places like offices, hospitals, etc.
We should understand that the digital world is not a free-for-all world. It would be a deadly understanding of freedom if that is how we understand the freedom we enjoy in our digital world.
It has to be properly regulated so we can cruise it safely and fruitfully.