Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Technology and the Christian - Part 14

(Please refer to previous articles to pick up the context. Part 1 here; Part 13 here)

As I was thinking through the thoughts I shared last time, I was thinking through the difference between the way we interact with technology and the way we used to interact with newspapers or books. We've all seen the older sitcoms where a woman would be trying to speak to her husband, but he would be hiding behind a newspaper. He was shutting her out of his world during the time he was reading the paper.

My dad was a pastor. He loved to read and so he almost always had a book with him. When we'd go on vacation, as soon as he had a chance, he would sit down somewhere in the shade and read his book. This would sometimes perturb my mother because she often had other ideas of what she would rather have him do with his time, especially time she considered to be family time.

In both of these scenarios, it's important for a husband to learn to be attentive to the needs and desires of his wife and family. It was still possible to be withdrawn and separated from those around us even when the technology consisted of paper and ink.

But I've been asking myself the question as to whether our issue today is just another version of the same thing or is it fundamentally different. On the surface there are some of the same issues. I can be reading the daily news on my Ipod when my wife wants to get my attention about something. An Ipod isn't as big as a newspaper and so she can easily see my face. Or, I can be on vacation and when I think I have a good opportunity, I can go off somewhere and read a book on a Kindle. Is this different or the same as what happened in previous generations?

On another level, the two media pose completely different circumstances that I think we as Christians need to look at very carefully. With print media, one is normally locked into one task. When I'm reading a book, everyone around me knows I'm reading a book. If I decide I'd like to check on the yesterday's sports scores, I will put down the book and go pick up the newspaper. If my son is reading the sports page, I have to wait until he's finished. I don't know how other people are, but very seldom, if I had five minutes of free time between getting dressed and leaving for work would I go find my book, pick it up, and read a page. Because I wasn't used to so much distraction and multi-tasking, my brain didn't think it needed to find some little thing to do during every quiet space in the day.

How do things differ now with technology? Let me use myself as an example. I have an Ipod Touch that I use for just about everything except typing. I mean I can study my Bible, check the weather, read the news, read any number of different books, play games, text people, send out tweets, check on Facebook, etc. Because I am older, I tend to use this tool more like I would the device it replaces. In other words, when I read, I tend to read it the way I would a book. Younger people tend to be much more distracted and multi-tasking than I am. But having said that, I have noticed some tendencies that automatically come with this type of technology.

I may be reading my Bible and meditating on it, but then wonder what today's weather is going to be like. So almost in mid-sentence I may switch over and check the weather. Then I'll wonder what the 10-day outlook is and so might check that out. Needless to say, this breaks my train of thought. I may be reading another book when I wonder if anyone has posted a response to a grandchild's picture I posted on Facebook and so might switch over there to see what's been happening. Someone there may have referenced a cute You Tube video and so I might check that out and chuckle as I see the inane antics of some 2 year old. Meanwhile, the thoughts evoked by the book I was reading are long gone.

All of the previous events can take place while I'm “reading” a text. But what about all of the other snippets of time that are spread throughout the day? We have a tendency to check in with the technology in almost every spare minute. There is a draw there that was not present in the newspaper and book. I'm not saying there is anything innately wrong about that, but it has a pull. Can't you feel it? You have a few minutes while your wife is putting dishes in the dishwasher and so you check out the sports scores. She comes in the living room to find you looking at your phone. It was just a few seconds and you found out what you wanted to know and so you put it down. Later on there's a lull in the conversation, if you ever got started in a conversation, and so you check to see if anyone has updated Facebook. In a few more minutes you remember that you had put a bid on Ebay and so you check your email for a minute to see if there's a message there regarding your bid. Again you set your phone aside, only to hear the familiar tone that tells you someone has texted you. It would be rude to leave it until tomorrow so you quickly check to see what that was about. Oh, it was only Culver's restaurant telling you you could get a buy one get one free Sundae on Thursday between 4 and 5 pm. That was important, wasn't it? Through all of this you are pulled aside from conversation with your wife or distracting you from what your children are doing. Rather than talking to or playing with them, you are fiddling with your phone.

...To Be Continued...

Part 15 available after it is published here.

PDF version of entire series

No comments: