Communication technologies, especially social media, have made it possible for all of us, especially for those in power, to transmit ideas and information to billions of people around the world simultaneously and instantaneously. For the first time in human history, these technologies have connected all parts of our globe electronically, yet ironically we often feel disconnected from one another.
To put a spin on an Alvin Toffler statement, the social media have magnified the very process by which we "try on" and "create" our real and virtual images. They make it possible for us to project our images electronically — via Facebook, MySpace, blogs, LinkedIn and YouTube — to the world. Yet nobody fully understands what all this will do to our self-worth, psyches and personalities.
News comes to us 24 hours a day, from all corners of the world, over a variety of media, especially the Internet, satellites and smartphones. Yet we often absorb it the same way that our ancestors listened to the town criers, without paying much attention to its form, content, message, meaning and source.
Moreover, we are often inclined to be impressed merely by the physical and entertainment aspects of the new technologies without thinking about their immense impact on our minds, emotions, families, relationships and culture.
Are we communicating better? Do we understand one another better? Are we getting along with one another better? Are we resolving our differences easier? Are we more tolerant of our differences (race, color, nationality, sex, religion, values and beliefs)? Are we happier with our private lives or with ourselves? Are we happier with our jobs? Are we freer? Are we happier with our national and international politics or our politicians? Are our children going to have a better future? Are we content with the status of our global environment vis-a-vis air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, ozone depletion and contamination?
Technological advancement is only the first step in a long and complicated journey toward a practical reality of a better world. To arrive at such a world, we must continue to probe the questions raised and rise above the glitter and excitement of our high-tech gadgetry world. We need to focus our attention on ourselves, on the next generations, on our relationships, on our fundamental human values, on the plight of humanity and on the sorry state of our global environment.
Capitalizing on our human ingenuity and creativity, we collectively and urgently must devise reasonable and workable solutions for the problems plaguing our present world to build a better one.
Yahya Kamalipour is head of the department of communication and director of the Center for Global Studies at Purdue University Calumet. He also is founder and managing editor of Global Media Journal. The opinions are the writer's and not necessarily those of The Times.