The Internet has provided a view into alternate ways of life from around the world. Individuals can choose to carry their old traditions and rules into new environments. There are recorded cases of Muslim families angry with female relatives for chatting with men on social networking sites.
The women considered the connection safe since they were following Purdah rules of remaining in the home. Men chose to interpret the Internet as an illicit communication and thus a violation of the rules. Knowledge of the Internet didn’t alter restrictive social rules.
Conservative Christian women have increasingly resumed the role of wife and mother through technology. Using their knowledge of the Internet, they gain access to new markets by selling handicrafts through websites or home-school using resources online. Their values have not changed but their means of supporting and educating their children have shifted.
Technology can even act to reinforce old social rules and traditions. Minority social and religious communities can remain connected through new media where they would otherwise be surrounded by a majority culture. By creating tightly knit online communities, they can reinforce their own believes and thus pre-defined rules through technology.
When an Orthodox Jewish wife can order head scarves or a Muslim woman order burqas online, the pressure to wear the clothing and share the culture of the minority is reduces. When children of small cultural communities can share video clips, set up chat rooms and create dating sites within their own community, each group can remain insular even as the world at large becomes even more connected.
The person then has the opportunity to follow their traditional life script of meeting someone of the same faith, worshiping according to their historical traditions and use the same consumer goods as their parents. By connecting with others who agree or tapping into communities who share common values, the traditional views and cultural knowledge that underlie pre-defined rules can be reinforced. And all of this is available through advanced technology.
With freedom of will, we are left with the irony that we can choose a different path or choose to remain committed to the pre-defined roles dictated by our social group.
(continued from part II)