I recently went shopping with my mother but couldn’t find what she needed.
“Let’s ask,” she said. “Don’t bother,” I said, looking up from my phone, “I just now bought it on Amazon.” The item arrived the next morning after breakfast.

Then our old television died so we replaced it with a ‘smart’ one. Now I can shop Amazon in 43-inch High Definition. My printer tells Hewlett Packard when I’m low on ink so they can send me refills. I read the newspaper on my iPad (which also knows where my phone is even when I don’t) and I’m pretty sure Google has been talking to my Facebook app behind my back.

I asked our new friend Alexa what I should do about it all but she was no help at all.

I’m torn because I’m in the business of sharing light, inspiration, encouragement, hope, and meaning – yet the media that gets my message out is more commonly used to spread darkness, division, discouragement, disillusion, hate, and confusion.

These devices may have been invented to bring us together but the effect is quite the opposite. I’m concerned at how readily communication technology is used to divide and how easily people allow themselves to be manipulated by what they are exposed to.

I asked Alexa about truth, and this time the answer was useful. “Truth,” Alexa said,”is fact that has been verified. Or conformity to reality.”

The best starting place – if we want to move closer together – would be to be more interested in truth than in being right, and in verification before we share. I am beyond tired of witnessing people swallow flat-out fabrications whole and without checking – simply because of the views they already hold.

So encourage me, friends, by honing your reliability skills. And encourage one another with a little more accountability now and then. I believe this country is worth it.

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Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at www.derekmaul.wordpress.com.