Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Internet: Good or Evil?

I began thinking about this after having read a Facebook post of someone I greatly admire. They were having a problem with a certain yeshiva banning the Internet from its families and students. I defended the yeshiva's right to act in this manner but the discussion that followed made me think about my own position vis-a-vis the benefits vs. the downfaults of the Internet. I must prelude the following by saying that there are those who are able to overcome their natural urges/desires and create "light out of darkness" but that the majority of us have not reached this level.

Ours is an age of change. The past 200+ years have witnessed the falling of empires, a multitude of revolutions, natual disasters, climate changes, two world wars, catastrophes of cataclysmic proportion, social upheavels, and so much more. We've been privy to both the good and the bad; G-d has shown favor to us and He has reaped havoc upon all aspects of our being. The Industrial Revolution, which began at the dawn of the 19th century, has spread to all corners of the Earth. It has benefited billions of people, at the same time dooming whole cultures. 

The coming of the Age of the Internet may or may not have been predetermined. Science fiction writers such as Ray Bradburry and Isaac Asimov predicted things of this nature in their books. It was perhaps meant to be and today, the Internet is a fact of life just as credible as the existence of the human race. What we do with it; how we apply it to our everyday lives is the question though.

I see many--especially those in the frum community creating boundaries for their Internet use. Today, there are a number of helpful gadgets that prevent kids and those lacking the strength to "guard their eyes" from accessing certain sites. Many yeshivot have taken upon themselves to block the Internet at least during part of the day, and there are others who've done away with it altogether. I'm definitely in favor of this type of boundary-setting. It's crucial for us as both individuals--and as a nation to maintain our purity of thought and action. 

The great 11th-12th century Torah sage, Rashi (Z"TL) almost incessantly carried on about the theme of doing away with promiscuity throughout the Chumash. He touched on this theme beginning with the generation of the Flood all the way to the end of Book of Deuteronomy. Nahmonides also brings much commentary on the topic of promiscuity as does Mahmonides. What is the essence of being "holy?" My conviction is that "holiness" has everything to do with keeping marital purity and carefully choosing what one watches. This is a choice we make on an every day basis. We cannot choose what we see, but we can definitely choose what to pay attention to.

The Internet doesn't even pretend to hide its ugly underbelly. I can make the claim that the entire purpose of the Internet is to expose people to trash--that this is not some kind of undesired side-effect and that the underlying intent of the Web is to bring negativity to our lives. How much more freedom; how much more time would we have if it were not for the constant burden of time spent "surfing the net", a term that has become synonomous with wasting one's time (and for good reason!)? Yes, some of us might end up losing their income (we've become completely dependent on the Internet for our earnings), and people might not have as much freedom as they previously did, but doing away with the Internet would, in essense, free us of an overbearing deamon.

I'd like to open a debate here by inviting you to voice your opinions on this subject. What do you think: Is the Internet mostly good or mostly evil?


  1. In my opinion the Internet is a true Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which we can eat both fruits of Good and fruits of Evil!

  2. I agree with this, but remember that according to Chazal, there were two trees in the Garden and that the Tree of Knowledge was the forbidden one.


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