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 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 YouTube 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 Snapchat, lost in the meaningless glow of our screens.



  • Building Up the Walls


In time, however, we began to separate ourselves into self-selected tribes. From the comfort of our couches, we erected plexiglass walls around our ideologies and identities, creating an echo chamber to protect us from our own insecurities. As the tribes grew larger, the walls grew taller and thicker, and the technology that once connected us now divided us.

The tribes aren’t the problem, though—the walls are the problem. In fact, tribes can be valuable: joining a group with high standards is one of the best ways to challenge ourselves; when we surround ourselves with people whose skills and knowledge are greater than our own, we gain competence, insight, wisdom—all of which we can share with new members of the tribe.





But when we protect an idea at the expense of our values, or when we attack others for immutable differences, or when we engage in recreational outrage, we lose sight of what brought us to the tribe in the first place: connection, not identity. It’s not the amount of melanin in our skin, nor the presence of a Y chromosome, nor the logo on the car or T-shirt that makes us the best version of ourselves—it’s our values, which are shaped by our behaviors and the standards of the people around us.

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.





The solution, then, isn’t to hurl our emotions back over the wall each time we disagree; the solution is to cut a hole in the wall and listen to the voices on the other side. An echo chamber is a noisy place, though, so we better listen carefully. Then, eventually, instead of new walls, we can install welcome mats in front of our values—because a tribe with shared values is infinitely stronger than an identity someone hands 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.


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