The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

‘Come, see devastating news, read about heartbreak’.

And I look and engage.

I see people dying – needless, tragic, horrific deaths

I see people starving – needless, tragic, horrific hunger

I see people lying – horrid, shocking, pointless lies

The world’s suffering held in my hand, on my screen, in my news feed picked especially for me by powerful computer algorithms.

And I look and try and engage.

I see images that I wish I could unsee.

I read stories I wish I could unread.

I learn of corruption and terror and wish I could unlearn.

The world’s horrors held in my hand, on my screen, in my news feed picked especially for me by powerful computer algorithms.

And I look and feel impotent.

I wonder, ‘what can my voice do?’

I ask, ‘will this click, this “like”, this signature on this petition, make any difference?’

I start to think, ‘are online engagements just there to make me believe that by continuing to look, I am somehow helping?’

And I stop looking.

I know the world can be a terrible place

I know people hurt.

I know of the insistent call to see, to witness, to be part of a multitude of button  clickers and petition signers.

But I stop looking because to continue to look hurts too much.

Instead, I look at my family –

My husband, asleep beside me,

Our sons eating breakfast.

I look at the natural world – plants and trees and new life everywhere

I think of my faith, the promise of resurrection,

And the wonderful commandment, ‘do not be afraid’.

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

It says, ‘I have the world, right here, everything you need to think held in your hand, on your screen, in your news feed picked especially for you by powerful computer algorithms.’

And I ask, ‘what can you tell me that I do not already know?’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

And I remind myself, ‘actions can be taken locally.

I am far more use attending a committee in my village.

At least there, I know I am heard,

At least there, people take note of my opinion.’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

And I quietly, carefully, turn it off.

And I pick up my bible, my prayer books,

Or my wellingtons and a coat,

Or the agenda for a local meeting.

Or, I go looking for my loved ones or my neighbours,

And I have ‘real’ contact with ‘real’ people,

People who remind me that it is still okay to smile, to laugh, to joke,

Who remind me that caring for the world requires care for oneself too.

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

‘You hold a portable window on the world, a selected bit of the world picked especially for you by powerful computer algorithms.’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

‘The screen can tell you what to think, what to expend your energy on, what is important in your life.  There is no need to go looking for original thought. The screen can tell you everything your mind should contain.’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

‘Look at the screen. Let it distract you from reality.  Let the horrors of the world make you pliable, then let it remake you in a useful form.’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

‘You are useless unless you know what you are fed, unless you believe what you are told, unless you act as you are dictated to.’

The screen insists, ‘look at me’.

And I say ‘no’.

 

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