(Sorry for not posting this on Wednesday, as planned. Life got a little ahead of me this week -- a broken temporary crown and the need for a new furnace.)
Every year for decades (and maybe longer), the Pope has issued a message for the season of Lent -- offering people things to think about as they strive to change their lives and live the lives to which they are called. This year, one of the key themes of Pope Francis' message was the sin of indifference.
That got me thinking about the role that the Internet plays in indifference -- for both good and bad. On the good side, the Internet helps us stay informed, whether it's about family members and friends or people on the other side of the world. The ability to share words and images quickly and (relatively) freely helps us to be aware of the needs and sufferings of others in a way that we weren't in the past. We can share this news with others, mount campaigns, and even help on a more tangible level. For example, we can raise funds to meet a specific need and use our social networks to organize providing dinners to a family in need or to organize an after-school homework help service or similar endeavors.
But there are negatives too. With so much information at our fingertips, it's easy to become overwhelmed. There's no way that I can resolve all the need and injustice in the world. I don't feel like I can make a difference. In addition, the Internet lets the frauds come out, which can harden our hearts against the majority of people who are in true need. Then there's the fact that we only learn about the limited number of stories that "go viral." The stories we hear may not be accurate and may not reflect those in most need of our care and concern. And signing a petition or making a contribution to a gofundme campaign or a pledge to a friend's latest project may let us off the hook too easy, with a no real investment of ourselves or real attempt at solving the problem we face. By acting a bunch of independent agents, we may not be able to address systemic problems -- instead treating (or over-treating) only the most obvious disease.
I'm not sure that this is particularly religious or even helpful, but just what I'm thinking about today.