GRE Issue Essay 161

“Technologies not only influence but actually determine social customs and ethics.”

It is an undeniable fact that the face of human society has been drastically changed over the years by the advent of technological advances. Man’s thinking and lifestyle have always been influenced by the technologies of his era. Technology has even succeeded in modifying the social customs and norms that are followed by humans. Nevertheless, the fact remains that customs and traditions still retain their age-old roots as technologies will never be able to completely control the social customs and ethics of society.

It would be an exaggeration to state that social customs can be determined by technologies. Since time immemorial, Man has been living in a society by following certain norms and these customs and traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. The advent of technology may have modified the norms and customs of society to suit Man’s needs. For instance, it is a custom in most Hindu societies that the brother travels to the sister’s home on a festival called ‘Rakshabandhan’, to enable his sister to tie a ‘Raakhi’ on his wrist. However, modern technologies have made it possible for sisters to send the ‘Raakhi’ to their brothers through the Internet or courier services. This is quite convenient in view of the traveling distances involved and the exigencies of one’s career. Therefore, technology has succeeded in modifying this custom to the extent that people now find it convenient not to travel but still celebrate the festival in some or the other way. However, technology can never be influential to the extent that brothers and sisters stop celebrating this festival altogether. They would have been following this ritual annually ever since they were children and the emotional attachment to this ritual will prevent them from letting technology determine a new future for this custom.

Technology has affected our entire lifestyles including our eating and clothing habits. Nevertheless, no matter how busy people are, they will always try their best to celebrate ‘Thanksgiving’ in the traditional way. Modern technologies may assist them in getting frozen pre-cooked turkey, but the same technologies will have no bearing on their faith and customs. The Christian bride dresses in white for the wedding ceremony. Technology may have altered the location of the altar because of the ease in traveling and arranging for commodities in almost any corner of the world. There are news of brides and bridegrooms who have exchanged vows in the weirdest of locations like in mid-air or in gardens and historical monuments. Technology may have improved the quality of the dress materials, but still in almost every case you will still see the bride dressed in white. The bride and bridegroom will still exchange the same vows that were exchanged by their ancestors, centuries ago. The custom of marriage may have been modified by technology, but technologies have no control over the religious ritual of marriage.

Technological tools like the internet, print media and television have succeeded in bringing the people together. The customs and traditions of other societies have started to have an effect on everyone across the world. At the same time, intermingling of people from different societies has now become possible because of people traversing across the globe in search of jobs. Technology has succeeded in bridging the gap between people from different societies, but still the people have been able to retain their customs and traditions despite the influence of technology. Technology had succeeded in placing Man on the moon decades ago, but technology has not been able to uproot the entrenched custom of certain communities that do not let their women step out of their homes without veiling their faces. Therefore, it is true to an extent that technologies may influence our social customs, but it cannot be agreed upon that these social customs are actually determined by technologies because ethics and culture are an integral part of any society and they cannot individually be determined by technology.