There’s a lot being said these days about technology! I think it’s on almost everyone’s mind. Can screen time damage my young children? What is technology doing to our family life? What is it doing to me? How do I limit the use of technology? Why can’t I put down my phone?
I know that Steven King is currently teaching a series of classes on Sunday mornings addressing these issues – The Tech-Wise Family. This week I’d like to put in my “two-cents worth” and relate this topic to hospitality. We were not able to attend the L’Abri Conference in Nashville, TN this summer. We have been able to get recordings of the lectures and workshops from the conference. I’ve listened a couple of times to a lecture by Joshua Chestnut from the Southborough, MA L’Abri branch: Scrolling Alone: Staying Human in a Smart Phone Culture.
I’d like to pick up on some of Josh’s main ideas but would really recommend the entire lecture for a fuller dive into the topic and the question/answer period following the lecture.
- How do we manage our lives and our devices? How do we exercise dominion over phones? First, the answer lies within us. There is a word, acedia. It’s an old word, introduced by 4th century monks who lived in the desert and paid attention to developing patterns of behavior, both toward wholeness and toward vice. Acedia points us toward vice, and means not to care. It can be summed up as being fidgety and agitated, moving slowly, dissatisfaction with place and state of life, avoidance of things that require work, attention, the things that we do that may go unappreciated. It’s a form of escapism. Our phones allow us to fully engage in this vice.
- However, what we do with our phones is not all our fault. We live in a culture where scientists have studied habitual neurological responses and they know how our brains work. They know how to develop products such that they have a dopamine effect on our brain. Simply put, dopamine is a chemical in our brain related to pleasure and the sensation to seek pleasure.
- We also live in a culture of surveillance capitalism. There is a whole market out there studying our human experiences, what we do, where we go, and it predicts what we will be doing soon and how that market can influence our behavior.
So this is what we are up against. And this is the culture we live in. Something happens within our psyche as we spend loads of time on our electronic devices. We learn to post things that make us feel good, we get lots of likes, we feel good, and so we brand ourselves and develop an on-line character, not a personal character. But we’re also seeing all the beautiful ways that others brand themselves, and we feel that we can never measure up to what everyone else is experiencing. It’s very isolating, and not at all human, to have our emotions and view of ourselves constantly being in flux. There is no stability, and we don’t know how to know and live with ourselves very well. We don’t know how to be alone, and we don’t know how to be alone with God. We don’t know what to do when all the activity is stripped away. What do we do?
- LEARN SOLITUDE – leave your phone in some other room so that you can be alone with yourself and with God. Spend time in His Word. Pastor Jay talked last week in his sermon on Psalm 1-2 about developing wholeness as we spend time with God. Learn to meditate on God’s truths and principles. Learn who you are. Learn what God thinks of you. Learn how God is at work to recreate you into His image. Get comfortable with who God created you to be in all your amazing complexity.
Another issue that all of us deal with is the anxiety that comes from the undifferentiated data that bombards our minds and our souls. We use our digital devices to look at family pictures, look up information, and when we do these things as part of our everyday lives, we also are hit with the latest mass shootings, storms and the accompanying devastation, the grief and pain of a world full of people that we don’t know and some that we do know. All of this daily bombardment leaves us agitated, scattered, never experiencing non-anxious moments. This can be true of all of us, but especially this is true for younger people who have never experienced the non-digital world. Who can we be?
- BE AVAILABLE FOR INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS – develop wholeness in your relationship with God so that you can be that non-anxious person that our culture needs. We can be that person who has lived longer and experienced more and who has a perspective on culture that younger people do not have. We need to be that person who has lived well and has wisdom and can offer good leadership to the world. We, because of our relationship with God, have the ability in Him to weather crises and exhibit His strength and His grit in the midst of difficult situations.
- WALK – leave all the smart stuff at home and go for a walk with family and friends. Enjoy God’s world. Talk. In doing so, you are taking action to relate with others, to draw them out, to teach them even how to have conversation again.
Be all that God wants you to be. The same technological struggles you have, others have as well. As God’s people, we do not want to be content with all the culture can do in us. We want to be more than that. Let me encourage you to engage with others and, in doing so, carry the good news of Jesus to a very lost world.