This article was recently published in a newsletter, so some of you may have already seen it. Brent suggested that I reprint it here being that it pertains to social media and mentions this blog. I’d love to hear what’s working well for you as you learn to balance life in our technology-driven world.
When your mobile device alerts you, how easy is it to ignore? How about when you’re with friends and family? Are you fully engaged, listening, responding and connecting? Or are you “half” there, shifting between them and our smart phone? What’s your reaction when you can’t get a signal? Do you ever approach a cashier, place your items on the conveyor belt, make the purchase, all without saying a wordsimply because you’re online or on a phone call? Could you go a day, a weekend or even a week without non-essential Internet use?
How you answer these questions can help rate the health of your relationship with technology.
Most days I drop Brent off for work downtown. We’ve noticed how few people are talking with one another. Instead, most are moving briskly down the sidewalks and through skyways with their faces buried deep into their cell phones. We’re surprised more of them don’t bonk their heads into a lamppost!
i like technology
We smirk at how transfixed people are on their mobile devices, but fully realize we can be just as guilty. Because, don’t get me wrong, I like it. I enjoy being connected. Brent and I use technology to keep on track with one another as well as with family and friends through online calendars, email, texting, Twitter and Facebook. Looking for a creative outlet, we even started a blog together. It’s fun, we’ve learned a lot, we meet interesting people and it provides unexpected opportunities to communicate our faith.
As we’ve prayed about what to write, we’ve also discovered a heightened awareness of what’s going on around us on a daily basis. I could dedicate a whole series of articles to how technology can be used by the Holy Spirit to encourage, empower, transform, engage and revive.
At the same time, we recognize the possible pitfalls. Besides the obvious dangers of identity theft and ungodly online material, when you’re always plugged in, it’s easy to rarely stop, take a breath and think about how you’re spending your time. You can let the constant flow of information, tweets, posts, friend requests, comments and feeds lead your next thoughts. These constant alerts have the power to determine your course of action throughout an entire day if you let them. Have you ever considered that this may make them an idol? Seriously.
can technology become idolatry?
Tim Keller puts it this way: “Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.”
John Calvin put it this way: “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”
And the ultimate authority, God’s Word, puts it this way: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:21, 25). Chew on those truths for a while, bathe them in some prayer with an open heart, and ask God what things you might be wanting “too much.”
who/what runs your life?
One of the big questions I’ve been trying to routinely ask is, “Is it me, God or the device that is in charge of my schedule?” While I could quickly jump to the “I need to stop spending so much time online” conclusion, instead I’m trying to simply be more intentional about recognizing the things God wants me to accomplish.
Brent will be the first to tell you. I’m big on lists. We have lists for just about everything. Obviously there’s a danger in allowing a list to run your life, but lists can also relieve you from wasting time on unimportant things to focus on the “better things.” What’s on your list?
what about your top ten?
Consider praying about and creating a list of 10 things you’d like to accomplish in the next five, ten or even twenty years. Your items may include anything from finishing that master’s degree, devoting more meaningful time to family, developing your prayer life, making a habit of journaling, to starting a business. You may even want to think about this question as a family. Dedicate it to the Lord, asking his direction, provision and blessing. Write it down. Then, freely be open to his re-direction along the way.
Post this list in a place you can see it on a daily basis. Think about what steps are necessary to accomplish the goals. Jot those steps down and keep praying. As you prioritize your choices along the way, let prayer, thoughtful conversation and this list help guide you.
Here’s where the technology question enters. Consider how your interaction with technology benefits or deters from your goals. Perhaps you’ll be led to “fast” or take a break from being online for a period of time. We’re toying with taking a day of the week off from unnecessary online activity. On the other hand, maybe God will lead you to increase your online connection, expanding your opportunities for ministry. Or perhaps you’ll find new technology tools that actually help free up time for more valuable endeavors. The answers will vary person to person. Be flexible with your goals and the process as you listen to the Holy Spirit.
pray for one another
No one’s perfect at figuring all this out. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with others who want to live life well too. Do you have friends who also want to hear from God and follow his lead? Let’s pray for one another to grow in living a healthy, godly balance as we set our priorities. Keep the conversation going with friends and family as you move ahead. Set realistic goals while trusting God to extend beyond them. It can be most effective to make changes in small, attainable “chunks.” And, in the end, remember that how you live the journey along the way is at least as important as arriving at your goals.