How smart is smart technology?

Smartphones have been around for about ten years now. When they first burst onto the market, they seemed to promise so much – family closeness, strengthening of social ties, growing community awareness and responsibility… So what went wrong?

How being more connected makes us more disconnected

In her acclaimed work Reclaiming Conversation (2015) Sherry Turkle documents the adverse effects of the smartphone. “It’s not an accessory. It’s a psychologically potent device that changes not just what you do but who you are.”

Turkle’s finding that paradoxically the explosion of such communication tools has led to increasing loneliness and sense of isolation is confirmed in recent surveys. One among US college students (18-24-year-olds) indicated that the average student of today is 40% less empathetic than a student of just ten years ago, while 75% of the elderly acknowledged strong feelings of loneliness.

The impact of individualism

From the 1960s onwards we’ve seen a growing stress on the rights and importance of the individual, while community and family cohesiveness and belonging have dwindled. This has led to a sense of loss of the meaning of social sin. This is the recognition that none of us are islands in the sea; deep down we’re all parts of sunken continents.

At a time when we’re being forced to accept that huge consumption of fossil fuels in Europe and America is closely related to the thawing of permafrost in Siberia, we can still be blind to the social impact of personal moral choices.

Then there’s the growing use of pornography and recreational drugs. The abuse of either is not just a matter of personal preference – pornography and drugs warp and distort a world that is increasingly interconnected.

We seem to be increasingly ignoring the fact that the choices we make, and the actions we take as individuals, have a widespread effect on society as a whole.


Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 7, ‘Sacraments of Healing’ referencing page 16. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 7’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.