Technology has infiltrated so many different parts of our lives. We own computers, phones, tablets, TVs and smartwatches. We use social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). Technology invades our homes, schools, shopping centers and even churches. A technological aptitude is praised and highly sought after with many lucrative jobs in the technology sector. Electronic technology is an inescapable reality.
However, we often use technology without a second thought as to how it affects us psychologically or spiritually. Although the electronics we use have numerous positives (such as increased communication, access to a plethora of data or increased efficiency), electronics can be dangerous to us and our children. We may think that our electronic usage is mostly harmless or that we are the masters of our devices. But, our electronic usage has profoundly shaped us — and not always for the better.
The effects of technology have reached from our everyday life into our spiritual life as well. Our spiritual disciplines should ideally be practiced in silence, solitude, and for extended periods of time. We know these quiet times are beneficial and formative for our spiritual maturity. But, the presence and continued progress of electronic technology has conditioned our lifestyle to the point that our spiritual disciplines are skewed.
Too often we simply say technology is bad — and leave it at that. But this answer is too simplistic. In order for us to understand how to use technology in a healthy manner, we need to first see how technology can affect us negatively. So, without further ado, here are five warnings to consider regarding electronic technology.
Advances in technology have allowed us to be more quickly distracted by things that don’t matter.Click to tweet
1. Unparalleled power for minimal gain
We have powerful little devices in our hands and pockets. The processing power in even the simplest device today significantly exceeds that of the processing power of all the NASA computers used to put the first man on the moon. Our devices are capable of processing an enormous amount of information in the blink of an eye.
But how do we use this ever-increasing processing power? We tend to waste it on frivolous mind-numbing activities that contribute little to advancing our minds or souls. Advances in technology have allowed us to be more quickly distracted by things that don’t matter.
2. Demands on our attention
The creators of our devices play on our inability to place singular focus on one thing. Our devices constantly, persistently chirp at us with updates, news flashes, the latest story or gossip or the next scheduled activity on our agenda. Our phones beep or vibrate constantly, our Facebook and Twitter accounts are constantly streaming updates and Snapchat messages demand our attention. This stream of noise has permeated our lifestyle.
We have never been more connected, but we cannot escape this new lifestyle. Our devices demand our attention, and we feed their call daily. The idea of silence and solitude seem like a foreign concept in wake of our devices.
3. Empathy erosion
The device or social media medium obstructs any face-to-face interaction possible with the people we talk to. Although this medium may seem harmless and innocent, the loss of the face-to-face interaction significantly affects our empathy — which tempts us to be rude and unloving in online interaction. Without the face-to-face interaction, the ability to read people’s emotions, facial cues or voice inflections is absent from the conversation. This can lead to misunderstandings or hurtful messages being conveyed.
4. Unlimited — but unfiltered and unvetted — information
The amount of data provided by new electronic technology is astounding. You are one click away from accessing any information you need. This enormous bank of potential information certainly has positive aspects, but the abundance of information has led to unfiltered and unvetted data.
The data is unfiltered as it all comes at you at once, and you have to filter the torrent of information yourself. Even more alarming, the information is often unvetted, unchecked or not thoroughly examined and critiqued. We have come to depend on the internet for providing immediate, reliable information, but with so much unvetted data out there, you cannot trust everything you read.
5. Anonymity and the true self
On the Internet, you can hide your identity or reveal your true inner self. If you wish to stay anonymous and reveal hidden from the majority view, you can choose to do so. You can make fake Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts to engage in any conversation without anyone knowing who you are. On the other end, social media also exposes people’s true feelings and attitudes — perhaps especially when they believe they are sharing them anonymously.
A person may say a certain message with a certain tone on social media even though they would never say that message in person. The way in which a person interacts with others on the Internet (“liking” certain posts, “sharing” certain posts, or “commenting/messaging” certain people) can reveal who they truly are. What you say online, even anonymously, exposes your true self.
The answer to our electronic woes may be to completely forsake the use of our electronics and become Luddites, people who oppose any new technology. However, such a drastic move would be unhelpful as technology does have benefits for our daily living (as we’ll see in a future article). For example, we can communicate with other people thousands of miles away around the world, and technological advancements have improved daily living and saved countless of lives.
Instead, let’s reclaim our devices for good. We can be educated as to how electronics function and the negative effects they have on us as individuals and as a society. We can refrain from allowing our devices to control and shape us. And we can educate ourselves on how electronics work so we can properly use them to serve others and glorify God.