How disciples use and interact with technology
This post is exactly what the title says – one (that’s me) Christian’s approach to technology. It’s by no means a treatise or textbook. But, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about for while. And, I think it’s because I am like a lot of people in my generation: I love technology. I love my phone. I can’t imagine life without it.
Recently though my phone updated and now I get weekly “Screen Time” notifications (oddly enough this weekly update pops up right as church is starting each week). To be honest I was amazed at how much time I spend staring at my little handheld screen: last week it was somewhere around 2 hours a day! Let me write that again – 2 hours A DAY! I couldn’t believe it. Now, granted, some of that time is when the maps app is open and I’m driving and I’m not actually looking at the screen. Some of that is when I have the podcast or music app open while my phone charges on my desk at work. But still – 2 hours!
So, how am I, as a Christian, supposed to view and interact with technology?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. What am I supposed to think of my phone or tablet, laptop or TV? How am I supposed to interact with these things, faithfully? What role can/should they play in my life?
Well, first things first – technology is not BAD. It’s not evil. One passage that comes to mind for me is Genesis 1:27-28
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the Sean and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”
Our creator created us in His image and set us out to create. Technology in all its manifestations is the product of our creating. It’s not bad.
In a sense, technology is like money. In a perfect world it’s neither morally good or evil. It’s neutral. But, in a fallen world (which is where we live) while it can be used for good – it can also be used for a whole lot of bad.
It think I’ve come to a place where I can say that all our technology can be used for some amazing good. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. But, we also need to view it with caution (just like our money). We should keep one eye on it to make sure it’s not tempting us. We use it for good, but we also question it and ourselves when we’re around it.
Maybe that’s the most helpful thing we can do: question technologies goodness. Technology moves forward today largely unquestioned. Of course it’s good. There’s no question you need faster internet, the newest phone, and a bigger TV. Of course these things make our lives easier, better, and more efficient. But, do they really?
Sometimes, less technology is more
After my own questioning, I’ve decided that sometimes less is more. Here’s a list of things that I find technology helpful for and things I think it actually makes harder.
GPS; quick texts like “I’m on my way!”; taking pictures; listening to podcasts and music; writing this blog; even studying the Bible (more on that later).
Bible reading. I just don’t focus as well when I try to read my bible on my laptop or phone. I’m too tempted to check my email, or even just look something up that piques my interest as I read. Before I know it I’m down some rabbit hole and I’ve totally lost my focus on what God might be saying to me. I know there are a lot of people who love the ease of reading their Bible on their tablet for example, but I’m jus not one of them. Sure, it’s nice to have the option if I’m traveling or find myself somewhere without a paper copy, but in general, I find I retain more and remain more focused with a paper bible on my lap and a highlighter in my hand.
Journaling. I’ve tried different apps like Day One or Evernote to record my thoughts, but I just run into the same problems as with my bible – distractions, rabbit holes, and just a dislike for staring at screens.
Brainstorming. Again, there are a million apps for this. I prefer old fashioned pen and paper, because that’s what works for ME. You might be different, and that’s ok. The point is that we should each be questioning for ourselves how technology might hurt/harm us in any particular instance.
Worshiping. Many churches livestream their services. I think that’s awesome for people who are sick, shut-ins, those who are traveling, or for anyone who went to church but wants to listen a second time. But, nothing can replace live, face-to-face worship. We need that weekly family reunion.
Alright, neither the good or the bad lists were meant to be exhaustive. You might be different. But, start questioning.
Technology gets in the way of my ability to listen
One of the most damaging effects of technology on my own life (and I’m only speaking for myself here – but I don’t think I’m alone!) is that it robs me of my ability to truly listen to other people and to God. I open my Bible to hear from the Lord, and 5 minutes later I’m on my phone checking Facebook. That’s a problem. I start to pray, but then I remember an email I need to send. I scroll through Instagram when I could be talking to actual people or listening to the voice of the Lord.
Sometimes I feel like my days are so busy that I don’t have time to do devotions, study the Scriptures, or pray like I would like to. But, then my Screen Time notification pops up reminding me that I spent 2 hours staring at a piece of glass and metal when I could have been with God.
No reason to get defensive
One of the ways I’ve seen (and I’ve seen this in myself) our unwavering acceptance of everything technological is in our defensiveness towards it. If someone suggests we get off our phone we snap, “There’s nothing wrong with checking Instagram – it’s how I connect with our friends!” If a spouse or parent tells us that it’s time to put down the tablet and get outside we think, “This is how I relax!”
Sometimes, we treat our technological gadgets as Saviors. None of us would say that, or even think out outright, but that’s how we treat them. We treat them like they are the ones who will bring us happiness. We act as if our technology can fix all our problems. If we just keep moving forward, if we just keep advancing, then maybe one day our world will be right. If we can just develop a tool to clean our oceans, heal our bodies, and maximize our efficiency then we will have the good life. The world will be a better place.
My own personal conclusion is that I want to be more mindful. I want to use it when it will help me. In order to determine that I can’t listen to the advertisers who tell me it will, of course, help all my problems. I need to be questioning and discerning. I need to evaluate. If technology will help me listen to more Christian podcasts, study more in depth through online Greek/Hebrew language tools, or re-listen to a sermon – I should definitely think about using technology to my advantage.
But, if it’s just getting in the way, if it’s a distraction or temptation, then I need to discern that and lay it aside.
Oh, one more thing
Our technological lives are real life. What we do online and on our phones is seen by God. We can’t pretend that what we do on a tablet is not who we really are or that it doesn’t count. Our interactions with technology are an extension of our selves – for good for bad. We can do amazing things online (and, humbly, I’m trying to here) or we can really mess ourselves up.
If you’ve liked what you read and want to read more, check out our little book, “Growing Up: In, with, and under Jesus” on Amazon.