Can information technology help the young people of tomorrow be examples of “good works”?

Joshua Situmorang asks how young people can responsibly use social media now and into the future. Photo: LWF/S. Lawrence
Josua Situmorang asks how young people can responsibly use social media now and into the future. Photo: LWF/S. Lawrence

Josua Rian Martin Situmorang, a member of the Global Young Reformers Network in Asia, asks what impact information technology will have on young people trying to lead the way for change.

 

As a Batak Christian born in a small town in North Sumatra, Indonesia, I wonder if we young people are living in a world created by God or one created by human beings.

I see that many young people are no longer communicating face-to-face but do so through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes we see young people gathered together but rather than making direct eye contact they are communicating in cyberspace.

This creates a sense of individualism and apathy and reduces sensitivity to the surrounding environment. Young people might not recognize their neighbors because they spend their time in the house online and are reluctant to get involved socially. This marks a big change from when I was growing up. Is this the world young people want?

Martandang is the traditional form of communication for Batak young people. It includes visits in their spare time to friends’ homes to find out how they are doing. Markombur involves Batak women conversing about school, family and friends. Communication is done with the mouth. Today it is by hand, with youth typing on their technological gadgets. Traditional wisdom teaches many things, including solidarity with others, which nourishes fellowship among youth, or as Hebrews 13: 1 puts it, “brotherly love”.

It used to be that parents would know the names of their children’s friends but today with so many of their relationships taking place in cyberspace, it is difficult for parents to know who they are befriending.

Still, each of us will have different views regarding the impact of information technology.

Many will say information technology can assist us if we need data quickly, that it offers networks locally and around the world. Others say information technology simplifies their work or reduces the environmental degradation brought on by the use of paper.

On the other hand, some people argue we have become dependent on information technology, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Path, Line and Messenger, posting photos, images and video activities and checking the latest notices on social media every day, every hour and even every minute.

They also point to the easy access to pornographic sites and note that online gambling, online prostitution, fraud and even hijacking other people's privacy are prevalent, opening up new worlds of crime and anti-social behavior.

We all have different views and I am not trying to argue that information technology of itself is good or bad. However, I do want to ask what is coming for youth in the next technological era. Young people are the agents of change who should bring positive values to others. How will we, then, as Paul urges in Titus 2: 7a, make ourselves “an example of good works”.

 

Josua Rian Martin Situmorang is a member of the Christian Protestant Church in Indonesia

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.