Digital Devotion or Distraction?

Full disclosure: as I type this article on my MacBook Air, I can see my iPhone and iPad on my desk, right beside my Bible that I preach from, the one I read in the mornings, and my journal. But depsite the inherent temptations, technology has added value to the quality of my life, increased the efficiency of my work, and bolstered the effectiveness of my calling. So I always keep 3 things in mind about the digital revolution that we’re all living in.

1.  Technology is amoral – Like any other medium, it is not the technology itself that is intrinsically good or evil.  On the contrary, much like the printing press, our latest tablets, phones, and interfaces only provide us with opportunity to do that which is helpful or harmful. When the printing press was invented, it was immediately used for good; the printing and distribution of Bibles. However, in a short matter of time the same medium was being used to create pornographic pamphlets. The answer was not to destroy the printing press then, and the answer is not to avoid technology now. A better approach is to see the medium as a doorway to opportunities to grow spiritually, to proclaim the gospel through social media, and to be a redemptive presence in the digital world for the Kingdom of God. The internet also affords us the chance to read, study, learn, and gain knowledge that is both helpful for our own spiritual formation and for ministry preparation.

2.  Technology is powerful – When I was a wee lad, I became addicted to a brand new game system called Atari. It offered the first of a generation’s worth of video games that children, adolescents, and eventually adults would play. I remember playing for hours until my parents forced me to go to bed.  By the time I was in college, my hall was filled with young men in their twenties, many of them spending more time in front of a TV screen with a controller in their hand than at their desk preparing for their classes. We are being naive to think that technology has no effect on us. Multiple scientific studies prove that our brains are actually re-wired and re-formatted based on our digital habits. Daniel Anderson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, believes that young brains are becoming habituated to distraction as they constantly switch tasks on a screen, making it harder to focus on one thing and actually finish it. 

3.  Technology is here to stay – Like it or not, the speed at which technology is advancing is mind-bending, and it will not slow down or stop. Our culture has an insatiable desire to be more connected to faster information and entertainment. There is no reason to stick our heads in the sand and play dumb. Technology wields great power and influence, but we have dominion over all of creation under the Lordship of Christ and it is our challenge to harness the power of technology and steward it for the good of the world and the proclamation of the gospel. It is also our individual responsibility to set boundaries and limits on the time we give to texting, Facebook, and YouTube, because every moment that we are staring at screen is a moment that we’re not talking to our spouse, a moment that we could be playing with our kids, or a moment that we could be loving an actual human by giving them our face to face attention.

 

Learn more about Clayton King, or access his most recent book STRONGER.