Technology, especially with how we communicate with each other, has changed everything we think and do. Accelerated high-tech progress has completely altered our behaviour and restructured how our communities work.
Every little detail seems to be different from my internet-less childhood.
There was no remote control for our television set that, when I was really young, had only three or four channels. Being the youngest sibling, I was the remote control and ran, back and forth, between the large glowing box and the couch. There was only one, sometimes two hockey games a week that, because of my location, usually involved the Toronto Maple Leafs losing.
The 1970s were a primitive and sometimes cruel world.
Change is inevitable and technology has increased our collective potential to construct a better, smaller world. However, as humans, adapting to rapid change in our environment has always brought significant problems and challenges.
For 50,000 years or so, we have always lived in communities. From our hunter-gatherer tribal roots to modern life with our Star Trek-like, high-tech devices, we have always needed rules to interact successfully as a group and survive in an environment that could be hostile.
Around 500 BCE, and probably much earlier in unrecorded times, there was the societal and spiritual development of the golden rule, which roughly states: “Only do things to other people that you would want done to yourself.”
In present day Nepal, Buddha taught a version of the golden rule and, in China, Confucius spread a similar idea. Origins of the golden rule are associated with most religions and gave us a guideline to behave better together and thrive as large groups of people.
Today, many of us exist in communities that are virtual and only online. We communicate and spread ideas without physical touch or sight. Body language, or non-verbal communication, has been completely removed from the equation.
Interaction without the nuances and subtle exchanges of physical presence creates a bounty of problems and social hardship. It seems to be a situation often polluted with misunderstanding and false bravery that doesn't exist in the real world.
In local virtual places such as Facebook, or any online community in the vast internet, we sit behind a keyboard and often feel and express things in anger and confrontational ways we wouldn't in the real world.
Keyboard courage is something I have felt; it’s a behaviour I awkwardly regretted quickly after clicking the “send” button.
Feelings of anonymity and detachment made me someone I’m really not. In the flesh and blood world, I wouldn't express such anger and self-righteous absolutism. In reflection, it was an odd feeling I felt uncomfortable about.
The digital environment that surrounds us has evolved so quickly we need updated rules of behaviour for present life.
From our ancient prehistoric tribal ancestors to online chatter about local politics, we need some rules for social cohesiveness. A golden rule 2.0 could be: “Don’t say something to someone you wouldn't say directly face to face.”
Adaptation to changes in our places of socializing is essential for a better world. The Maple Leafs will probably still lose, nevertheless, social rules need updates just like the computers we sit behind.
Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.