Has technology exceeded our capacity for humanity?

Responsibility in the use of social media must be inculcated in everyone so that we retain our sense of compassion towards other human beings, says Barathi Selvam.

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” This is a quote often ascribed to Albert Einstein, but which may have actually come from a 1995 movie called Powder.

Whatever the origins of the quote, technology, which has been perceived as synonymous with development, has intruded into our lives, leading most of us into a state of dependency like a committed drug addict unable to shake off his addiction.

Smartphones and social media seem to be now ruling most people’s lives. These innovations have become part and parcel of human life: we now have to check emails, organise work groups, share information and much more.

Traditional media such as newspapers and magazines are facing severe threats and challenges from social media, forcing many of them to take the leap to new media. Over time, the undeniable contribution of technology has become almost unavoidable.

But technology brings with it its own dilemma or battle between the good and the bad. On the one hand, it seems to make our lives easier, bringing the world to our fingertips. On the other, it has fractured humanity and diminished a sense of civic-mindedness among many of us.

If once upon a time, our immediate reaction when we encountered accidents, fights or casualties was to make a call to the authorities for help, nowadays we tend to take pictures through our sophisticated phones, instantly uploading them to social media for some unfathomable reason.

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A lot of false news, distorted information, unverified allegations and biased assumptions are spread on social media without any sense of responsibility.

It should trouble us when those who are not connected to an issue or incident fabricate well-crafted stories that could convince everyone, even those who are directly involved in the incident.

While the purpose and cause of this tendency to make up stories that are far from the truth is not known, things can go haywire when such stories become viral. We have to remember that the world of social media has brought everything closer: what I have been doing today in Malaysia might be known to a person living in New Zealand.

The other day, I went to a hair salon, and surprisingly, everyone there was prattling on with almost six different versions of a story about a girl who committed suicide as if they were the closest person in the world to her. It was terribly disheartening to witness how we were ‘killing’ again and again a girl who had already left us.

When I confronted them, it turned out they had obtained these cooked-up versions of the story through social media, thanks to those geniuses who believed and spread these accounts.

What is more concerning about these recent events is the lack of humanity and compassion towards another human being. Human beings are embedded with so many cultural, religious and moral values that are supposed to help us to become more compassionate towards every living soul.

It cannot be the survival of the fittest anymore, but it has to be the survival of everyone. A sense of helping one another without spreading hatred and lies should be inculcated in everyone, from kids to adults.

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A sense of responsibility in using social media must be promoted. Everyone, especially children vulnerable to social media influence, should be educated as to their use.

Those who think themselves mature and experienced should be wise enough to double-check any sort of information or news that they would like to share. If you are not sure about it, don’t take extra comfort in discomforting others.

Let us work together to heed the timely warning to not allow technology to exceed our humanity.

Barathi Selvam, an undergraduate majoring in journalism at a local university, is enraged with the social injustices he sees around him. He hopes to use writing as a medium to advocate for anyone who is discriminated and oppressed and to empower the marginalised.

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