Saturday, February 23, 2013

Technology and the Christian - Part 17

For context see previous articles (Part 1 here; Part 16 here)

In her book Distracted, Maggie Jackson writes, “Moreover, a boundaryless world means that coming home doesn't signal the end of the workday anymore than being on vacation is a time of pure relaxation or being under one roof marks the beginning of unadulterated family time. We rarely are completely present in one moment or for one another....To cope and to keep up with our pulsing personal orbits, we live in worlds of our own making, grazing from separate menus, plugged into our own bedroom-based media centers, adhering to customized schedules. … Seventeen percent of the families in the UCLA study consistently ate dinner together. On weekdays, the parents and at least one child came together in a room just 16 percent of their time at home. True, hours together don't automatically translate into intimacy. But if we can't be bothered to keep coming together in the fullest, richest sense of the word, we lose the opportunity to form those deeper bonds. ... Are we losing our willingness to wade down into the painful, soulful depths of human relations? 'When you can have a face-to-face conversation, do you? When you're right in very close proximity, do you bother?' asked Ochs. 'I'm afraid we're going to wake up and think, “Oh my gosh, we could have been having a conversation.”'”

My hope is that as Christians, we will not be absorbed into the world's way of thinking about these things. Relationships are important to God. Satan would do all that he can to disrupt and destroy relationships because good relationships are an image of God and he hates that image to be portrayed with all of the love and self-sacrifice that is an accurate portrayal of God.

Our technologies, as helpful as they are, have the capacity to disrupt and break down the most crucial and intimate relationships of the home and family. We must not be naive about this. We must be on the alert and take active steps to counter the communication breaking aspects of our technology. It makes no sense to use less than ideal communication media to communicate with people who are further removed from us when the people we should be caring for are right there and the means to communicate face-to-face is immediately available.

So what are some steps we could take to counterbalance the tendencies we've discussed? Two choices are not really possible. The first is to throw our hands in the air and say we can't fight it. It's too hard and we can't make any progress. The other choice is to say that the good old days were better. Let's get rid of all the technology and return to a previous life. That is not going to happen. So what can we do?
  1. Realize and accept the fact that you do have the power to control the technology and to manage it for the glory of God.
  2. On the personal level, make the conscious decision that “wherever you are, be all there.” (Jim Elliott)
  3. Based on the previous decision, refuse to take cell calls, look at text messages or emails during times that call for your participation listening and interacting with others. That would mean during meal times either at home or in restaurants when you're with others.
  4. Be careful even during group events such as watching a movie or ball game together. I have discussed the implications of multi-tasking on the brain as well as the importance of being involved socially with others and so if you are involved in a shared experience, participate in that experience without being distracted by your technology.
  5. If you're in the kind of setting where reading a physical magazine, book or newspaper would be appropriate, you should be able to read any of these on an electronic device as well. But beware of the tendency to jump from thing to thing. Control your self. Do not allow yourself to be controlled by the technology.
  6. Whether you're with others or not, control the urge to flit around the internet, hitting links in an almost mindless way. Your brain will become less able to focus.
  7. If you are a parent this and the following suggestions are for you. Restrict cell phone use. Children do not need to be in communication with their friends at all hours. Perhaps they have a cell phone for safety reasons while away from home, but all phones go on the recharging table when they are home.
  8. There's no good reason for children and teens to have smart phones. The Internet is not a safe place. As a young man told me just yesterday, “There is no good reason for a 15 year old boy to have unlimited and unrestricted access to what's on the Internet.”
  9. Children and teens shouldn't have TV or computers in their bedrooms. Everything done on a computer should be out in the open in public.
  10. If you allow your children to use Facebook or other social media, you must be their friend online and read through what gets posted both to and from them.
  11. Teach your children electronic etiquette – No phones during meals; don't interrupt a conversation with a friend to take a call or check a text message; etc.
Part 18 available once it is published here.

PDF version of the entire series


Challies, Tim. The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Jackson, Maggie. Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2008.

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