Technology as a tool to make life easier, not to replace communication

By Sister Cora Salazar

“A great myth of our time is that technology is communication.

Radio was my first piece of technology I recall when I was growing up.   I remember how after dinner, our family would sit around and listen to drama, news, comedy, even basketball scores.  Then came black and white television, years later, and our family gathering after supper revolved around the TV to get the evening news.

Many predicted that TV can replace the school teacher in the classroom, much the same analogy of robots taking the place of nurses in doing routine things.  Schools have computers for instructions, and maybe robots in hospitals, but the touch of human beings proved Picasso’s theory: “One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men/women.  No machine can do the work of one ordinary person.”

Many religious communities did not subscribe immediately to technology like microwaves, computers, cells phones, etc.  I remember my spiritual director from a Trappist Monastery in Northern California objected to the use of TV and computers.  He was afraid human interaction would lose its value.

When our motherhouse in Auburn was remodeled, each room had its own TV, and sisters who are computer-literate had their own laptops.   The after-dinner gathering to watch the news was no longer a practice.   I am amused each time I enter BART trains.  All passengers are glued to their laptops, texting or listening on their cell phones, oblivious to the fact that an older woman, a mother strolling her child in, or a handicapped man needs the priority seat they usurped.  I thank God for one woman who gave me her seat one day, and I struck up a conversation with her, finding out a lot about her.

Albert Einstein’s worry that “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity, gave this challenge: “The human spirit must prevail over technology.”  I totally agree with him, and furthermore, a famous opera and concert composer, Libby Larsen said: “A great myth of our time is that technology is communication.”  I sadly recall in myformer convent, living with three sisters in Sacramento.   Different schedules reduced our conversation to writing notes posted on the bulletin board.  It caused misunderstanding. Short notes sometimes do not cover a multitude of info.

I have nothing against technology and its advancement if used to enhance and aid conversation. I believe as a religious living the golden years, communication has much more value now than ever.  Many pictures, lovely notes, written reflections, and announcements on the bulletin board become real when talked about at meals, and shared.  I get to know deeper the human spirit of the people I live with, work and play with, when the quality of communication touches my soul and I get connected heart to heart with God’s Kingdom, lived,  here and now.