Part of an occasional series of articles that discuss what I call “The Elephant on the Internet.”
One of the things that is becoming readily apparent with the younger generations is a growing disaffection with established religions. According to study in 2022 performed by the Survey Center on American Life, religious affiliation has been steadily declining in America for the past 30 years, which is generally around the same time access to the Internet became reliably and affordably available to the masses. Obviously, that’s not the only thing that has risen in prominence since the 1990’s, but you’d be hard pressed to name something else that might even get close to matching the importance of organized religion, and clearly, for each successive generation, it’s overshadowing last century’s opiate without breaking a sweat.
Get to the point, Woo!
Unfortunately for this quotation and the idea it represents, its original author is not viewed fondly by Americans, who, more so than perhaps the previous 60 years, are again struggling through an identity crisis that has been fueled and stoked by religious extremism and class conflict, core elements of our fabled enemy of the Cold War: Marxism. Before the Internet, TV was the stand-in for Religion, but the concept remains as applicable regardless of the actual opiate: people will always seek something to distract them from the struggles of life, various injustices and the seeming indifference of the cosmos towards our personal trials. In case you didn’t notice, Television has essentially been assimilated by the Internet, and our local church is one of many that I know that are adopting Internet platforms like streaming and social media in a bid to fill its pews and remain relevant with generations that are already firmly hooked on the Internet.
Here’s the scary part: unlike Television (and maybe more like Religion, pre-Industrial Revolution), the Internet is not only our opiate from an entertainment/distraction standpoint, but it’s also now our daily bread: we have, unwittingly or not, tied everything of modern life to the Internet. Some of us have bound our very livelihood to the Internet and many do not know how to live otherwise. I’m sure the thought of religion disappearing suddenly isn’t as breathtaking as it might have been 100 years ago, or the thought of a world without TV 50 years ago, but could you imagine what would happen if the internet stopped working tomorrow? Every time the internet goes down (which seems to be frequent these days), a small part of me asks, “What if it doesn’t come back?” or worse, “What if it comes back for some and not others?” That latter question is one we might need to answer sooner rather than later. An increasingly shrinking number of companies and individuals control nearly every corner of the Internet while religiously making sure we’re distracted, and I would be hard pressed to identify if any of them have any sort of recognizable ethical governance or compassion.
Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net