The Good, the Bad, the Technology

Tim Challies, in his excellent book  on the explosion of technology and how it has shaped our world, made the following statement:

“We wonder if maybe, just maybe, we have gotten ahead of ourselves a little bit. Maybe we don’t know what we are doing. Maybe, just maybe, we have become slaves to our own devices. Maybe we haven’t considered the consequences of the digital revolution, much less the way it is impacting our faith. How, then, are we to live?”  (emphasis mine)

I’ve been going through this book for that last few weeks,  and this quote keeps coming to my mind.  It seems that every day, I’m having a discussion with someone about something having to do with some form of social media.  And over and over, I keep seeing evidence that we do not consider the consequences of our technology, nor do we seem to want to.  Challies does a far better job than I ever could unpacking this (I highly recommend his book), but you know me…I’m going to vent.  (Wait, isn’t that one of the problems with all this to begin with?)  And where Challies looks at technology as a whole, I’m going to focus on one particular aspect of it:  social media.

Let me say this first, though:   I’m not a Luddite.  I do not think all technology is evil, nor do I think (or wish) we should go back to the Dark Ages. I’m thankful for my iPhone and its Jetson-esque ability to keep me connected to the important people in my life, no matter where I am.  The internet is not evil in and of itself, and the ability to gather information and disseminate information quickly about pretty much any topic is an awesome thing.  The computer I’m typing this on is unbelievably powerful by yesterday’s standards, and affords me great flexibility with work.  But all three things I’ve just listed have great potential for evil, as well.  The doorways they can open do not all lead to the good.  A great deal of self-control, discernment, and integrity is required for all of us in the 21st century.  That’s a post for another day, though.

My premise here is that we don’t think about the consequences of the media we use.   For one, the ability to communicate easily and quickly via blog/email/facebook/twitter or any other social network.  I’m extremely grateful for the ability to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family, and to connect with people at my leisure, regardless of time.  Instead of hoping I get someone on the phone, or waiting someone to call me back, I can send them an email and put the ball in their court.

But do we realize that tone does not translate on these platforms?  Do we realize that the comment that we make as a joke with the smiley face might be read to be completely sarcastic and derogatory, even hurtful?  Face to face, you can read the fact that maybe your friend isn’t having the best day ever, and you might decide not to say the comment that is on your mind.  Over the net, there’s no way to know.  Or would you say as much in a situation if you were face to face, or even on the phone, as through the keyboard?

Though we’re not “speaking” in the technical sense, the words of James apply to us here:  “Even so the tongue isa little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”  (James 3:5)  Whether you write it or say it, words are powerful.  Proverbs 10:19 says it this way:  “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”  My how restraint of the lips seems to go out the window when we are using a keyboard instead of the tongue!  Think, my friends, about what you say and how you say it.  And remember this, you can delete a post, but the harm done lingers on.

And what about that ability to connect with those long-lost friends from high school?  I know we all like to see what happened to that guy that really irritated us in high school, or if the pretty girl that dissed us turned out to be…well…not so pretty anymore.  Or just to reconnect with that friend you hung out with all through school, but lost touch with, these sites certainly can provide that.  But be careful here.  Very careful.  What happens when your high-school sweetheart that you haven’t heard from in 20 years “friends” you?
 Studies indicate that one in five divorces are at least partially because of inappropriate behavior on social networking cites.  Now, let me ask you:  how many do you think intended for that to happen when they friended that old girlfriend/boyfriend?  Probably not the majority.  It happens slowly, over time, in those instances when no one is watching and maybe married life is not what you thought it would be. The website is not to blame for the fall, but it certainly makes it easier to fall.
And here’s one that I think we can all relate to:  how quickly do you reach for that phone/computer in the morning when you wake up?  Can you resist the “buzz” when it goes off?  Ever?  How much time do we spend on these sites, reading of the minutia of everyone else’s lives, while our’s is going by?  Do you live through this media?  Is your online life more real than your flesh-and-blood life?
I guess my question to you is:  is it worth it? What have you given up at the expense of it all?  Are you certain you won’t fall prey to any of the dangers and become a statistic?  Do you want to take that chance?  Are you more worried about who you’re “friends” with online than whether your marriage is solid?  Are you aware of how those with whom you’re friends with online take the comments you make?  Do you ask them?  Are real, flesh-and-blood friendships as valuable to you as online ones?  This is one of the areas of Christian freedom that I don’t think you can be demonstrative about and blanket-statement any policy regarding the use of these technologies.  I think that we all have to realize our weaknesses, and be honest about them.  If you can’t handle it, then get out.  No technology is worth your marriage, family, or friendships.

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3 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, the Technology

  1. Very thought-provoking post, little brother. I do wonder sometimes if a facebook or blog comment I intend as light-hearted and humorous is taken as something else. We just can read a person’s tone in a comment or e-mail. As inconvenient as it may seem to us, a face-to-face conversation or phone call may many times be the best option.

    • Sis, I don’t think you have much to worry about! It’s usually the two brothers that tend to “open mouth, insert foot!”

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