Our easy-everywhere technology is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.
Americans check their phones every 4.3 minutes. The average Facebook user spends 50 minutes each day on Facebook. Four out of five teenagers sleep with their phones and are connected within five minutes of waking up. More than a third of 18 to 29-year-olds admit that they are online “almost constantly.” Clearly, we love our connectivity.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Connection is certainly good, and our technological age allows us to connect in remarkably easy and efficient ways. We keep in touch with old friends and make new friends in ways that would have been impossible just a few short years ago. We have face-to-face meetings with business partners thousands of miles away without leaving our homes. We create grassroots social movements by uniting like-minded people that would have no context for connection and organization without social media.
Besides, our technological innovations should be celebrated, and we Christians should be the biggest proponents of human ingenuity. After all, God created a magnificent world full of buried treasures such as artesian aquifers and electromagnetism, just waiting for us to discover and harness them. After making this world, God told us to go and subdue it. In other words, go find all that this world has to offer and use it for good. Too often, Christians have seen technological innovation as the enemy, but God loves it.
Yet at the same time, our consciences tug at us. We wonder if we should be spending so much time online and we admit that sometimes we just get lost in a virtual world that leaves us feeling kind of empty. We hear some of the warnings. Anxiety and depression seem to correlate with time spent online. We have growing concerns about our privacy and the ways in which big tech companies use our personal data to manipulate us. We’ve heard about the large number of Silicon Valley executives who forbid their own children from using social media, and we wonder if they know something we don’t. We sense that our technologies are no longer serving us, but we’re serving them.
So we feel torn. It’s like the smartphone is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the biggest curse we have in our lives, and we’re not really sure what to do about it. It doesn’t seem like the solution is to head to the hills and detach ourselves from anything invented post-19th century. And yet we also sense that we need to take drastic steps to free ourselves from what often feels like slavery. We live in a complex world with no easy answers.
But complex questions shouldn’t cause us to throw our hands up in surrender. Instead, they call for persistent and thoughtful discussion. And that’s what we want to pursue. Beginning February 3, we will be teaching a five-week series on Sunday mornings called REFRESH: Wise Living in a Smart Age. It won’t be a fear-mongering, “all technology is evil” series, but it will highlight how important it is for all of us to develop convictions and patterns related to how we use technology. Our personal well-being, our relationships with others, and especially our relationship with God will be dramatically affected by our ability to keep technology in its proper place. Thankfully, God makes some clear promises:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
Over the next five weeks, we’re asking God for wisdom and trusting that he will deliver. After all, we need it desperately. Our technologies are wonderful servants, but they’re horrible masters. Join us this Sunday, February 3 at 10 a.m., and keep tabs on our REFRESH landing page, where we’ll be posting resources throughout the series.