Our tools are only as good (or bad) as the person using them.
A chainsaw can cut down a rotting backyard tree, preventing it from impaling a neighbor’s house. Or, that same chainsaw can be used to hurt our neighbor, to chop him up into tiny pieces.
A can of paint can be used to beautify a home’s facade. Or, one might use it to graffiti the walls at an otherwise pristine public park.
The same goes for technology. We can use Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ to enrich our lives and the lives of others, to communicate and share in ways we’ve never been able to communicate before. Or we can get stuck in social media’s Bermuda Triangle, careening from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube, lost in the meaningless glow of our screens.
We can use our smartphones to photograph gorgeous landscapes, message loved ones, or map out directions to a distant national park (or—gasp!—to make phone calls). Or, we can use that same device to Twitch: to incessantly check email, thumb through an endless stream of status updates, post vapid selfies, or partake in any other number of non-value-adding activities, all while ignoring the beautiful world around us.
Bottom line: It is up to us to determine how we use our chainsaws, paint cans, and technology. Our tools are just tools, and it is our responsibility to ask important questions about how and why we use them. Because to become a Luddite is to avoid an entire world of possibilities, a better world that’s enriched by the tools of technology. If used intentionally, we can change the world with these tools. Or, we can do a lot of harm. It’s an individual choice, the world is at our fingertips, and it’s up to us to act accordingly.
Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.