With the flood of informative articles, videos and social networking sites available on the internet in recent years, many people have been wary of the consequences of such a technologically saturated culture. Now Orthodox Jewish organizers in the group, Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp, have also taken a stance on the perils and pitfalls of the internet.
The New York Post states that about 60,000 Orthodox men attended a gathering held at Citi Field and Arthur Ashe field in New York on Sunday to discuss the dangers of the internet. Speakers at the event cited pornography and gambling as central issues of internet use, but another theme that was central to the event was the idea that social media takes away time for reflection, prayer and responsibility in the community. Sites such as Facebook were also viewed as temptations for fulfilling and replenishing unwanted human desires.
The packed stadiums were filled with men only. Women were able to watch the event on live broadcast in Orthodox neighborhoods. Many of the sermons focused on getting youth to discard Facebook profiles and other social media outlets in an attempt to live a purer life. Male high school students were admitted to the event for free, a sure sign that this part of the population is often the most active on social media outlets.
The event cost around $1.5 million to put together and tickets were even sold online, but Orthodox Jewish leaders are not the only ones arguing that excessive internet use can damage the mind and body. An NPR interview with Clay Johnson, author of the book “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption” argues that constant clicking and searching on sites such as Google can cause serious mental and emotional damage to individuals.
As the author puts it in his interview on “Weekend Edition”:
What choice gives us, what choice of information gives us, is the ability to misinform ourselves in all kinds of new ways. If you can have a discussion with someone next to you who says, ‘I think X is correct,’ and the other person says, ‘I think Y is correct,’ and then you can turn around to your mutual computers and then build a case for why you’re both wrong — then all of a sudden, that synthesis that has really made … democracy great starts going away. We lose our ability to synthesize when we can always prove ourselves right.
Both Clay Johnson and the Orthodox Jewish community are seeing certain patterns emerge in the way young minds are developing in relationship to the world. Admittedly, Johnson is not calling for a purer way of life in the religious sense, but perhaps both groups are looking for a more conscious and careful life where children are not handed iphones at 10 only to become internet junkies. The constant influx of information available to all age groups has clearly made an impact on the way both the Orthodox and secular communities function.
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