A pedestrian is startled as a car screeches to an abrupt halt—just inches from his body. He lifts his head and thumbs from his glowing smartphone screen, scowls at the driver, and keeps walking. This scene plays out every day somewhere in the world. Texting walkers are the latest concern—doing something called wexting.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.
Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.
I received an email from a close friend with the subject line “I’m too old for this!” His email told of his recent ordeal riding a roller coaster with his 12-year-old son. He said that the ride lasted only a minute, but it was miserable. He didn’t get physically sick, but he also didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.
Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.
Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.
Every so often my wife and I will flip through family pictures and note how much our two boys have changed. I’m amazed at how small and childlike they were not so long ago. We’ve lived through these years with them and have witnessed their development. Yet their transformation has been so woven into the rhythm of our lives, we don’t notice the changes until we look back.
A few years ago, I brought a group of young people on a mission trip. As we neared our departure date, the most frequently asked question was, “Is there Wi-Fi?” So just imagine the wails and groans one night when the Wi-Fi was down!
In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.
Ming lived for more than 500 years before her demise in 2006. The quahog (large clam) had been nestled near Iceland when researchers plucked her from the ocean floor. After prying the creature open—ending her existence—they initially thought she was a record-breaking 402 years old. But further research revealed that she began life in 1499 and made it to the ripe old age of 507! Fortunately, scientists learned much from Ming, including data on changing sea temperatures over the last half-millennium.
A young boy and his stepdad had trouble connecting with each other due to the fact that they were complete opposites. The man was outgoing; the boy was reserved. The man loved to get up early to fish; the youngster loved to sleep in and play video games all day.
I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.
In April 2014, a blogger was sentenced to 3 years in prison for slander and spreading online rumors. He was the first among hundreds of bloggers detained in a crackdown on Internet rumors being spread in social media. The authorities said that the arrests were aimed at maintaining social order, but rights groups saw this crackdown as an attempt to limit freedom of speech online. There continues to be much discussion, debate, and disagreement on the uses and abuses of social media, not only over what’s been blogged but also in the way words have been used.