Using Technology Wisely

 
Living in a modern world has its benefits. We can communicate with practically anyone anywhere with just a few taps on a screen. We can access unlimited information by asking Siri. We can share instant updates of our lives with our friends with a simple photo upload to Instagram.


But as Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." Technology indeed gives us great power, what we lack is the responsibility to healthily utilize that power. The average person in the US spends about 3 hours a day on their smart phone. Over the course of a lifetime that 3 hours a day come out to over 10 years spent staring at a screen (and this statistic does not account for other forms of technology such as TV, computer monitors, or Ipads). But time, as precious as it is, is not the only thing that suffers. Sleeping disorders are on the rise globally due to cell phone usage before sleep. Face to face social skills have plummeted in youth, parent child relationships have suffered, even our ability to pay attention has crumbled across the board--all largely due to technology addictions.


Even I have long sensed a restlessness in myself: a need to occupy my mind with some new update, some new stimulus, some breaking news. And when things do get quiet or there is opportunity for a real conversation, I find myself growing fidgety and bored. Hungry to break away from the awkward ebb and flow of real conversations. Desperate to keep myself not even entertained, but occupied. Maybe you have observed this in yourself as well.


These are some of the unique challenges of the times in which we live. And they do not appear to be going away any time soon. If we are to be found faithful Christians in our generation who are "making the best use of the time for the days are evil" (Eph 5:16) we had better put some safeguards in place to ensure our technology does not continue to spiral us out of control. 


Here are 3 keys I have been trying to be more discriminatory with my technology usage:


1) Compartmentalize it. Much like fire, technology can be very destructive when it oversteps its boundaries. But in a safe, limited place--it can be a very useful tool. Too often though we allow scrolling through social media, online games, or incessant text messaging to invade areas of our life that demand our total attention (like conversations with family over dinner or helping your child with homework). But smart phones travel with us wherever we go, further exposing us to the temptations of technological behavioral addiction. What must we do?


First we must create boundaries. Designate a specified time in our day where we can send emails, play video games, surf the web, do online shopping--but once that time is over, we are done with the technology for the day. I have actually been thinking about purchasing a desktop computer that would sit in a sectioned off "work-space" where my wife and I can set apart intentional screen time from the rest of the day. But when we are done, (and this is the key) we are done--and unlike an I-pad or a notebook, a desktop computer wont follow us around the house when we are done. Perhaps wisdom would further advise that we create a phone basket in which we lock our hand held devices in after a certain time.


It is my expectation that finer lines in our technology usage will not just benefit our interpersonal lives, they might even make our technology usage more effective.


2) Distract yourself from it. As Freud once noted, simple repression of a desire is not sufficient to conquer an addiction or inclination. And he was right. As human beings we just lack the will power to "just say no" without some added help. In fact some studies show that the harder we try to avoid something, the more likely we are to succumbing to that desire. But if we provide an alternative to the Facebook, an alternative to the Instagram or to that Netflix binge addiction--we may be a lot more successful. So we have to repeal and replace, as it were.


Much of the allure of technology is the social/interactive aspect of it which rewards our brains in the short term--but does little to create truly rewarding, long-term relationships or social skills. This solution might sound strange, but instead of spending the evening scrolling through twitter prostrate on the couch, might I suggest that we find some new hobbies. Maybe get outside and start running with a friend. Start a book club or a part time business. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or the homeless shelter. Get involved with your local church. Instead of liking your friend's status, maybe you could have them over for dinner and take the time to build the framework necessary for a real relationship through conversation. Such physical habits may not always pay out in the short term like much of the internet does, but trust me they will prove invaluable over time.


3) Unplug it. Something my wife and I have been doing is having "quiet time". After 8:00 PM or so we have been trying* to turn off our home's wifi and go off the grid. And since our phones do not have any data and we don't have any TV programming, this takes away about 95 percent of technological temptation. Instead of mindlessly glaring at screens or admiring our likes on our respective pages, we have been reading books and talking to each other. Imagine that! This "unplug time" is something I want to keep doing, as it has helped create an environment where my wife and I can have a better, more intentional relationship with each other.


The challenges of technology are quite unique to us, something previous generations never had to deal with. But as technology grows and applications become more alluring and addicting we need to make sure we are living with enough wisdom to not waste away some of the most precious resources God has given us: time and people. Let us then look carefully how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.




Comments

  1. So true Daniel. Thinking about the subject nearly 2 years ago, the Lord gave me this poem. Jerry Knull
    SOCIAL

    Isn’t it great how we’re so Social,
    With our many likes and friends,
    But when was our last conversation,
    When will we talk face to face again?

    They go out to eat together,
    To have that quality time,
    He on his tablet, she her smartphone,
    So no even speaks one line.

    We post on Facebook and on Twitter,
    Linkedin, Tumbler, and Pinterest,
    Yet we’re anxious and discouraged,
    We can’t sleep and can’t find rest.

    A friend sends a bully message,
    One sends a selfie they can’t take back.
    Now they’re an outcast, a pariah,
    Their world of light has now turned black.

    We race after the next big thing,
    Will it be the I-phone seven?
    Missing life, our gifts each day,
    Missing the road to heaven.

    Can we stop, and just step back,
    Hear His Words of peace amid the strife,
    Reach and touch the hands around us,
    To start to find the Way to Life?

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    Replies
    1. That is so true. Technology has its benefits for sure, but like all good things it is so easy to abuse. "Anxious and discouraged" are two huge side affects of such overuse. One of the problems is most of us (myself included) don't even recognize that there is a problem--while our most important relationships suffer (as well as our walk with the Lord). We do not know what it means to be quiet anymore.

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