First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

HOLY HOMEWORK
The Internet: Freedom or Fettered? Intimacy or Isolation?
Holy Homework
Father Bob Pagliari

Americans bask in liberty. We relish it. We demand it. We die for it. For 241 years we have not only inhaled independence into our own lungs, but we have also raised a golden torch to light the way for any tired, poor, huddled masses who yearn to breathe the fresh air of making their own choices instead of suffocating on the pollution of tyranny. This is one of the reasons why we so quickly embraced the World Wide Web invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990. Anonymity augmented our self-determination.

The Thrill of Victory and Free to be Whomever

In the original social media of cyberspace, we were no longer limited to being ourselves. We were free to become anyone we wanted to be. Behind the veil of obscurity, we could choose a new name, a new identity, a new height, weight, age, ethnicity, marital status, income, and anything else we wanted to be and no one would be the wiser. The secrecy of the computer screen was an American dream suddenly wide awake and universally available in every corner of the earth. Everyone in the world was at liberty to be anyone, anywhere, at any time. Raise the flag!

The Agony of Defeat and Surrender of Privacy

Is the internet still an electronic American dream today or has it become an abysmal global nightmare? Are our travels being served by GPS tracking or is The Cloud raining on our parade? The past 12 months have marked the first time in U.S. history that American consumers purchased more products online than in stores. But what is the cost of never getting lost when traveling? Has the convenience of shopping from home also brought an intruder into the house? Have we locked our front door but handed over the keys to the backdoor to savvy hackers who can peek into our parlor now that we have Direct TV?

Matchmaker Replaced by a Mouse

Today one out of every three weddings are marriages between couples who meet online, a fact which even surprised eHarmony CEO Neil Clark Warren. Most are professional people who prefer introductions through dating services because they have busy schedules and no desire to go to singles bars. Electronic selfies have replaced introductions by knowledgeable family members and trusted friends. Blind dates are passé. Now we are free to read about, contact and pre “view” potential mates or we can decline without offending them or ourselves or the cupid with the bow and arrow.

Restoration of Appropriate Distances

When our great grandparents first spoke into a telephone receiver, without exception they would shout into the mouthpiece. Why? To their way of thinking the person on the other end of the line was miles away and therefore it was necessary to be loud to be heard. Before Alexander Bell's invention conversations were mouth to ear. The ability to whisper and still be heard was indicative of the level of intimacy between two people in the same room. The fact that our youth prefer texting to talking could be interpreted as a restoration of the proper distance that should exist when a relationship is casual rather than close.

More Involved or More Isolated

In 1776 the rockets of freedom were bursting in the air not over the airwaves. As a nation of progressive innovators and electronic wizards we must ask ourselves this most telling question: Has the internet enhanced our love for freedom and patriotic connections or compromised our right to privacy and engendered isolation?

For Holy Homework:

Enter a Catholic church and proceed to the ranks of candles that the faithful can light for a small offering. If the rack holds actual burning candles, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the fire of freedom that burns in all American hearts. If the rack contains electronic candles, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the love of ingenuity that burns in all American minds. And if the church has no candle racks, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving for those who strive to lead others out of darkness and into the light of truth. In each instance, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving so that God will continue to bless America.

Comments can be sent to: FatherBobPagliari@Yahoo.com

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