With modern technologies, communication has become very vast and sophisticated. Besides the telephone, we send instant messages online. In fact, we spend a lot of time talking. Yet if we look deeply, we do not need to talk as much as we think. We need to reflect on the content of our chats and our motivation behind the chatting.
Loneliness is one of the afflictions of modern life. People in modern societies often feel lonely, and many engage in chit-chatting via SMS and instant messaging, in the hope that the feeling of loneliness will then go away. However, idle-chatting/surfing the Net is never an answer to loneliness. Instead, it may bring more “toxins” into the mind. Each time you feel lonely and turn to your handphone or the Internet, you are cultivating the habit of idle talk, which may make things worse. If we are not mindful, we can easily get addicted to these modern technologies, and in fact, many young people do. They feel uneasy if they are unable to access the Internet. We need to be discerning in our use of information technology and help our young ones use it wisely.
During the Buddha’s time, there was no IT and hence, no precept set to guide its use. Today, we can use all the precepts based on the principle of non-harming, as a guide for IT use. If we look closely at the content on the Internet today, we detect a lot of violence, hatred, greed and fear. If we spend hours surfing aimlessly, we unconsciously sow seeds of violence and ignorance in us. When we do that, our children follow our example. We need to be careful of unhealthy content which is destroying the social fabric of our families and ourselves. Discussion within our communities about this can bring about greater awareness. It can also bring about ideas on how to protect children, families, as well as society from destructive websites. We should boycott those websites that spill harm into our societies and make an effort to warn others of their danger.