Not Black or White but Gray: A Digital Heshbon Ha-nefesh(Soul Inventory)

Prompt for further reflection

Another strategy for exploring the complexity of the role of technology in our lives is to imagine the extremes on a continuum. At one end, think of a website such as Caring Bridge, where the capacity of a community to love and support an individual going through a health crisis is filtered digitally through the real needs of the family or individual. Clearly, this is an example of hakarat hatov/acknowledging the good, that technology can do in our lives.

Now imagine the other extreme. Picture someone spending many hours in front of their own screen. This scenario might play out positively, if the hours are spent in one of a variety of engaging, social simulation games available online. Arguably, it is quite another story if the aim is to achieve some form of complete mindlessness. In some sense this negative scenario reflects the rabbinic concept of bite zeman/wasting our precious resource of time. We will explore this in greater depth in chapter five.

Now, try to imagine all the gray that lies between the black and white of “technology bad” and “technology good.” Try naming half dozen or so examples of gray, where the reader is genuinely conflicted about whether a particular use of technology is neither transparently good nor bad, black nor white. What accounts for the “grayness”?

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Finally, take a look at the graph below, a tool for exploring and categorizing one’s own digital habits. It was developed as a cheshbon hanefesh/soul inventory instrument for the High Holidays, but is available for our use anytime we are trying to gather our moral bearings in relationship to technology.

Absolute Digital Necessities for work and family

Fun, “harmless” forms of entertainment

Activities that are diversions from more worthwhile activities

No No’s…better  to remove these digital behaviors in the coming year