Thursday, January 31, 2013

Technology Diet

We’ve all been there, sitting at your computer, browsing through what seems like endless articles, blogs, etc. until you realize that you have just wasted an hour or more doing nothing. Technology has certainly given us many conveniences and has opened us up to copious amounts of information, but it has also provided us with ample opportunity for distraction. My common day usually consisted of a half hour drive into work listening to my iPod. I listened to anything from music, podcasts or audiobooks. I would then arrive at work where for much of the day I would continue to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks, but I would also occasionally listen to Pandora on my iPad while working. At lunch I would browse some sites and blogs that I frequented and perhaps watch an episode of The Office on my iPad. I would finish the work day plugged in to one of the devices I owned that started with a lower case “i”; then, you guessed it, drive home listening to something. At home, I would spend time browsing through emails and looking at something on Amazon, while the television was on. The next day, I would get up and do it all again.

What I described to you really isn’t anything strange for our current culture, in fact only a few weeks ago did I get my first smart phone. You guessed right again, it starts with a lower case “i”. So I was probably behind a bit in my device and internet usage. Nevertheless, there is a certain boredom and lull that begins to overtake you when you relive this cycle day after day. So as December came to a close, I begin to contemplate the possibility of a technology fast for January. I have embarked on this journey before, but it is truly difficult to completely unplug. The majority of my work is done on a computer and I have some other things that I need to access a computer for so I can’t fully pull away from technology. My wife began to refer to this fast as a technology diet instead of a fast, which is more accurate.

My drive to work has been silent now; a half hour both ways! I work in silence and I sit in silence at lunch. Silence can be a scary thing, because you are alone with your thoughts and you enter this whole new world where you are forced to bring discipline into your thought life. Many mornings and evenings I spend praying while I’m driving or reflecting on the day. At lunch, I have read books. This month I have read The Hobbit and Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work by Tim Keller and now I am reading The Silmarillion. While I often read on my lunches, I read on my iPad, so I had more of a potential of drifting off into distraction online somewhere.

So what have I learned from all this? A friend asked me if I would change anything when I came off my fast. I told him that for me when I have come off of fasts in the past that I never came back the same as when I started the fast. I assume that there will be a lull for a while in my technology usage, but I will probably creep at some point back to old patterns. I think the importance of introducing a rhythm to our technology interaction is healthy because it helps remind us that these things are tools, not life. It helps us remember that social media relationships are not, in fact, relationships at all. It helps us to remember to stop filling the gaps of our day, of our life with something to keep us from dealing with ourselves and most importantly, it helps us to have space to grow in relationship with Christ. Technology is in no way evil in and of itself, it is in fact part of the common grace that God has poured out on creation. However, there are certainly dark corners, roads that we should not go down and experiences that we should not have when it comes to technology. The real challenge we face is keeping ourselves from making technology an idol. Many have said that an idol is basically when we make a good thing, a god thing. Do you need to step away from technology a bit? Is it the reason that you “don’t have time for God?” Give it a shot and let me know how it goes…

Here is a portion of a Puritan prayer that I believe fits this topic:

My Father, in a world of created changeable things,
Christ and his Word alone remain unshaken.
O to forsake all creatures,
to rest as a stone on him the foundation,
to abide in him, be borne up by him!

For all my mercies come through Christ,
who has designed, purchased, promised,
effected them.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

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