George Smith’s recent column, “All our techno-toys give us more outlets to behave rudely, crudely” shines light on a troubling attitude that pervades parts of our society, namely a belief that ability to use communications technology is somehow anathema to humane values.

I submit that Smith has confused the relationship of cause and effect with that of medium and message.

There is little doubt that the advent of social media has made it easier for the average person to be exposed to the marketplace of ideas, including those ideas that we find distasteful.

Smith, however, seems to make the mistake of believing that those negative ideas are generated by technology. The fact is that the cellphones, computers and communications media available to us, while tremendous in capability, are not able to generate a single independent thought. What it does do is turn up the volume on all messages, good and bad.

Perhaps technology has made it easier for rude people to be rude, but it also has made it far easier for good people to see needs in the world and work to meet those needs.

The ability to communicate around the globe, across war zones, and across political and sectarian boundaries through texting and social media has led to remarkable advances. Soldiers on foreign soil and sailors defending the high seas can communicate more easily with loved ones, and humanitarian efforts can be coordinated across continents, thanks to the technologies Smith blames for a break down of civility.

While it is annoying to hear people swearing into cellphones, a retreat into Luddism and prideful ignorance is neither virtuous nor reasonable in the face of this problem. Civility must find its place in the modern public square and civil people must engage with technology for this to happen.

Aaron Blaschke Rowden, Fairfield

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