Have you ever wondered who runs the show? Are you managing your technology, or is it managing you?
Any decent dictionary will tell us that technology is the practical application of knowledge in a particular area or the capability given to us by the practical application of knowledge. As such, we understand that a believer is in no way opposed to technology – it would be virtually impossible to live without it. The same dictionary tells us management is the control and organization of something, or a judicious use of means to accomplish an end. We face a daily struggle to properly use and control technology so that it does not assume too large a role in our lives.
The pace of progress has been, and continues to be, outstanding. We cannot stop the process, nor do we want it to stop. Any readers who have lived more than a couple of decades will recall that, in the early 90’s, a hard drive in a computer was perhaps 40MB at most! Read that again – 40MB, not 40GB! Now we are measuring in terabytes! Remember booting up computers in the 90’s? There was almost time for a coffee break during the lengthy startup procedure! Improvements in technology can be a great blessing for believers.
We may wonder how people survived before cellphones, tablets, and personal computers. There is no doubt technology provides many advantages for believers. It is wonderful to be able to see grandchildren on FaceTime even though they are thousands of miles away. Bible programs abound to assist with spiritual growth and studies.
However, with the advantages, we need to note the disadvantages. We expect instant answers to our emails and text messages. We want people to be available 24/7 to respond to our every need. We wait to see the checkmarks turn blue on WhatsApp, and then wonder why our friend is not answering already. This does not produce patience. The ability to search for a Bible verse might make us dependent on a program, and save us the “work” of memorizing Scripture – thereby producing not diligence, but spiritual laziness.
Another danger we may fall into is the trap of always “needing the new.” God says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (Heb 13:5, KJV). One of the challenges that believers face is a lack of contentment with what we already possess, and this includes technology. Do we wait anxiously for the release of the next iPhone? Advertising is geared to make us think that the iPhone we bought in 2015 is antiquated, or that the computer we are using has an extremely slow processor, and that we need to upgrade now.
We live in a society that is never satisfied and is always accumulating more and better technology. Don’t take me wrong – I am certainly not advocating a return to flip-phones and Atari computers! But as the world continually pressures us to “upgrade,” we should seriously consider before God – is it necessary? If so, is the upgrade necessary right now? This leads to another issue in relation to technology.
Recently, I visited a local internet office, and the kind lady behind the counter mentioned just how difficult it is to gain and keep people’s attention when their turn comes up. Access to the Internet is constant – the buzzing, beeps, and blips never stop. Have you ever seen someone cross the street, paying no attention to traffic, or a couple in a restaurant engrossed in conversation – but not with each other? Think about how our Father must feel when He is interrupted during the time He wants to speak to us. Do you check your phone first thing in the morning, or do you focus on your relationship with your heavenly Father? “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart” (Heb 10:19, 22, KJV). Can we even get through six verses before being distracted by a buzz or a beep? What about family time around the dinner table? Can we leave our technology aside for 30 minutes to focus on the family? Do we think the world will come to an end if someone can’t get in touch with us 24/7?
Experts say that technology addiction works in a similar way to other types of addiction. When someone “likes” our photo or post on Facebook or sends us a text message, our brain is positively affected. We begin to crave that attention, which may prove harmful in the long run in two ways: 1) the addiction itself. Consider the fact that the “average” North American spends over 10 hours a day on their smartphone;1 2) the danger of becoming egocentric with the abundant use of social media – consider as evidence the outstanding rise in the number of “selfies” taken and posted just within the past few years.
Part of the solution is to lead by example. If you are a parent or a leader in an assembly, show the younger generation a better way, not only with regard to the accumulation of technology, but also in your own access to it. Show genuine interest when talking with people; don’t feel the need to check your phone several times while conversing with your child, or with another believer. Relationships are vital. We might have 2500 “friends” on Facebook and still feel very lonely!
Make a commitment to put your technology to one side for certain time periods during the day. The use of a timer can be helpful in this regard. You may be pleasantly surprised at the freedom you feel when you begin to do so. You won’t miss anything of lasting importance if you turn your phone on “airplane” mode, for example, when you sit down to read and pray without distractions. Your reward will be far greater than anything you think you may miss!