The blog article has to begin with a confession, I love technology. That’s something that most can whole-heartedly relate to. However, my focus is with the “darker side” of technology namely, its adverse effects on our spiritual life. Without question, we have access to so much today because of the miracle of technological advancement. We can stream sermons, podcast, video, audio all for our spiritual enrichment and edification. Still, at the heart of technology’s threat to our spiritual health is the issue of time. With the advent of social media we really must ask, how much time am I spending being concerned about conversations two or three degrees removed from me? Some seem to make it a full time ministry as official “watchmen” of the social media “wall.” Facebook is right at the top of the list for consuming large chunks of our time. Without question, FB could be used to encourage people in our spheres of influence. But with FB it seems like there’s no end to how big the “sphere” really is. An hour goes by very quick if your constantly checking on people’s comments, whereabouts and updates etc. The lists could go on an on with virtually no end as to how easy it is to waste your time on social media. But its also blogs, the personal ministries of others, podcasts, radio shows, and Twitter feeds. If you feel the need to take a break from all of the entanglements of media— you probably should listen to that voice. Spending too much time on certain kinds of technological sources can zap your spiritual appetite for great books of theology and more importantly, of course- the Bible. When the time we spend on technology and social media takes our time away than we begin to see the real danger of Technology’s Plague.
It seems to me that part of the problem that we have today managing our technology lies in one of technologies “blessings”— instantaneous information. It used to be that we relied on books to read the works of distant preachers or theologians. We thought it remarkable when cassettes and CD’s made it possible to gain access to some otherwise inaccessible teaching ministry. But now, teaching is accessible everywhere online and instantly to virtually anyone. A lesson I learned from the third world may be useful to make my point here. I recently traveled on a mission trip to Mexico to preach a conference on Christology. The church in Mexico has limited access to ministry resources. This creates a hunger for truth that is very pronounced in the believers in the churches I visited. They are not able to simply jump on GTY, Monergism, Desiring God or Ligonier for theological content. Their lack of theological content leaves them wanting more. Could it be that because technology has made it so convenient for us to access myriads of resources on our handheld devices that our taking all things theological for granted has created in us a spiritual lathery? If this is the case I want to offer several possible remedies because one of the worst things that can happen to us is that we begin adopting a “no big deal” attitude towards the content of what we are accessing since accessing it seems to be no big deal. We cannot ever associate what we are downloading to how we download it. Theology is not common or instantaneous it is nothing short of arduous— something we have grown accustom to ridding ourselves of at all cost. Let’s look at these remedies one at a time.
There must be a time when we practice digital detox. It means turning off the computer, phone, tablet, Bluetooth, Ipod, Nano, everything must go. This is completely against the grain of our digital-overdosed world where kids are killing siblings and parents when their favorite video game is taken away from them. In the spirit of 1 Cor. 6.12, we ought not allow technology to have mastery over us. This may force you to have to work through what you will do with the time. Maybe start a prayer time with the family, maybe begin to work on understanding a theological subject. It will not be surprising if some find themselves lost without technology, even bored if left with nothing more than God and the Bible. But we have to see that this is plague, not a reason to flee back to our toys. Take the time to reorient yourself with what it means to have nothing but God, bible, and prayer etc.
Lengthy Prayer Times
Prayer is essential for digital detox. Prayer cannot be done with phone in hand, unless of course it is aiding prayer e.g. using a Bible app etc. But I would encourage tech-less prayer. Prayer that forces us towards the simplicity and faith-nature of prayer is good prayer. For those who are virtually, if not literally, addicted to tech; this kind of prayer will prove to be a great challenge but if followed through, the boon is precisely.
Books not Bytes
Before, Amazon, before Kindle and e-readers there were books and bookshelves. Although I do not hesitate to confess my love and appreciation, and even my dependence on digitized books and bible software like Logos; there are certain abiding advantages to printed books. First, we can feel a printed book. There is something about being able to touch a book, have an enlightening moment with book and pencil in hand. Nothing has to be turned on for the book to be there. It is a visible reminder of the instant blessings one can experience the moment we decide to “take up and read” as Augustine said. Second, I find it much easier to visualize the content in printed books I have underlined and notated. Digital books often have several processes to making note taking and highlighting accessible. I personally believe that books are written for total consumption, complete extraction of truth by however means necessary. I am more of a book consumer than collector. I am not simply looking to make books look like ornaments on a wall. My library is a fully functional storehouse of divine truth and by the grace of God, I mean to use it for all its worth. Third, although technology can help us to access books conveniently, printed books often have the advantage of slowing us down. A book requires that we get in a posture and place where we can read effectively— this too is for our good and can grant us much needed time off “the grid.”
Don’t Follow Too Many Voices
There is such a thing as spreading yourself to “technologically thin.” With a click of a button, we can add endless voices to our RSS feeds and develop a long podcast line up we never actually get around to hearing. This is probably a symptom that we may be trying to listen to too many voices. We have to develop a system, manage our time better by minimizing our media ministries. Remember its not quantity that we want, its quality. Social media has a way of conditioning us to think all we need is 140 characters and “we got it”, read the latest Tweet and we are up to date with the latest evangelical trends etc. We should think soberly about redeeming the time (Eph. 5.16; Jam. 4.14). We can do this by refining our list of ministries we follow and support.
Finally, remember that we always have to have a sober view of all things (2 Tim. 4.5). We cannot be naïve about the technological dangers that await and the potential for exchanging genuine communion with God for bite-size spirituality. The good news is that even in this, we can use technology for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31).
Soli Deo Gloria
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.