Technophobia and Media Idolatry

In his book “Communicating for Life,” Quentin Schultze discusses the balance been technophobia, and what he terms “media idolatry”.

Technophobia is pretty self-explanatory, but it can suggest more than a simple fear of technology. Technophobia is also a trap by which we blame all the problems of the world on media. We blame violent behavior on violent video games. We blame television for everything from our rowdy children to our biased and misinformed views of the world. Surely, technology tends to be a catch-all scapegoat for our problems, and this is a form of technophobia.

On the other extreme, another common trap is what Schultze calls “media idolatry”. The meaning behind this is pretty clear as well: elevating technology into some sort of perfect, all-powerful answer to our problems. Schultze mentions that with the introduction of the telegraph, many believed this new instant communication would usher in an era of universal peace and understanding. Christians thought that television would let them convert the entire world in the blink of an eye. Teachers thought that video cassettes would allow world-class lecturers to penetrate even the most impoverished schools with pre-recorded lessons. All of these naive viewpoints believed that technology had the power to save us from our problems – or help us magically conquer any obstacle.

The problem with both of these views is that they remove the human aspect. Media and technology is only as good as the people wielding and using it. With technophobia, we feel that we are not ultimately responsible for problems. It’s this detached, evil force known as technology or media. With media idolatry, we forget that human effort is still required to utilize media and technology well. It will never do all the work for us. It’s important to remember that media and technology are just an extension of human communication and the human capacity to do work. They can neither solve our problems or cause our problems. We are still the ones responsible.