Being online can be key

People carry a banner during an April 27 candlelight prayer service in Kolkata, India, for victims of the earthquake in Nepal. More than 3,600 people are known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu April 25. (CNS photo / Piyal Adhikary, EPA)

Last weekend, I went completely offline. This wasn’t, as one might expect, because I was craving a digital fast or needed time for quiet and solitude. No, I’m afraid the reasons was much more superficial: I was avoiding spoilers for the television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” albeit unsuccessfully.

I wish I could say my Internet-free weekend was a good experience, that being untethered from my phone helped me slow down and recalibrate. I wish I could, but I can’t. See, the thing is, social media is where I learn about today’s world. Like many a millennial, it’s where I get my news and find analysis on current events. I read my newspapers online (and even the Kansas City Star website had TV spoilers; I’m telling you, hardly any place online was safe), and I haven’t been enticed to watch network news since Katie Couric’s 2006 debut at CBS.

So I spent the weekend uninformed. I didn’t even know about the earthquake in Nepal until I went to church. Of course, it can be argued The Need To Know is a problem in and of itself, but let’s ignore that for a second; let’s just assume that, as a journalist and citizen of humanity, it’s a given that I should at least have a vague idea of what’s happening in the world. But in my world, I can’t reasonably do that without the Internet or my phone.

Young people get a lot of flak for being obsessed with their phones, and there’s certainly some merit in that. There are a lot of unhealthy device-driven behaviors. What we can’t forget is that carrying instantaneous access to the world in the palm of your hand is powerful and can do a lot of good. Think about the international organizations that have already been mobilized in Nepal, or the people who were able to “check in” and quickly get news of their conditions to anxious family and friends. Think about the first-hand, on-the-ground information we get out of countries where state-run media and propaganda has long been the only available information. The Internet better equips us to respond to God’s people around the world – monetarily and physically, yes, but also in prayer and concern.  

Global Sisters Report is online by design. Thanks to the Internet, we are able to reach a global network of people – sisters and anyone – who we couldn’t hope to reach in print. People from all over the world come to this website, and we’re able to tell stories from all over the world as well. Obviously, not everyone has access to the Internet – but I would argue that universal access is something we should all be working toward. Knowledge is power, as well as compassion and empathy.

The world is changing, as are the ways we learn about the world. I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and get a smartphone, nor am I advocating 24/7 connectedness, but I am saying these things aren’t inherently evil or distracting. On the contrary, they can provide immense possibility for action and understanding.

So, yay the Internet. Yay interconnectivity. Boo for “Grey’s Anatomy” spoilers. Seriously.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]