Technology is changing us. It’s changing the way we live, the way we think, the way we communicate, and even the way our brains work. In this post, I will look at many of the ways it is changing us.
We’re too distracted to think deeply about anything. Tim Challies said, “The digital explosion has changed the way the adult brain functions. It has placed many of us into what has been described as a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we devote partial attention to many tasks simultaneously.” The Bible says to “Be still and know that I’m God,” but we are often too distracted to do this. Our minds are so scattered that we lose the ability to devote any time to sustained reflection. Jacques Ellul (writing in the 1950s) said that the person absorbed by modern communication media, “falls prey to these ways of acquiring information,” and is “profoundly incapable of meditation and reflection.”
We are in danger of living shallow lives. Tim Challies writes, “Here is one of the great dangers we face as Christians: With the ever-present distractions in our lives, we are quickly becoming a people of shallow thoughts, and shallow thoughts will lead to shallow living. There is a simple and inevitable progression at work here: Distraction > Shallow Thinking > Shallow Living.”
We are too busy. Our lives are so filled with technology – Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, texting – that many of us just don’t have the time to rest. With all this media demanding our attention, we just don’t have time to invest in the relationships that are most important to us. According to Michael Wolff of USA Today, “The average adult spends 11 hours a day on digital media and 23 hours a week texting.” At the same time, my Bible app occasionally pops up with a message, “Just five minutes of Bible reading a day can make a difference.” Might this suggest that our priorities are out of synch?
We are becoming single-mindedly devoted to our devices. Our smartphone is quickly becoming our first reaction for everything. It’s the first thing we check when we wake up. It’s the first thing some of us go to when something exciting happens (to post it on Facebook). It’s likely the first thing most of us look at when we have a spare minute. We are devoted to our devices. When we use our technology this much, it becomes so instinctive that we don’t even know why we are doing it, and we’re completely unaware of what it is doing to us.
We struggle to live purposefully. Dorothy Day said, “I get so busy doing the things I want to do, love doing, that I forget to ask myself the why of it all; and I forget to ask myself what might be, what ought be, because I’m in the midst of doing, doing.” Our lives can become so busy with relentless media consumption that we are never able to deeply contemplate the deeper things in life. It can become so difficult for us to slow our lives down that we never ask why we are doing certain things, and our lives can end up lacking meaning or purpose.
We embrace the technological values of speed and efficiency over the biblical values of patience and faithfulness. Technological advances provide us with quicker and more efficient ways of communicating, but we must be careful not to make these ultimate values. The Bible upholds opposing values patience and faithfulness as important. If we make efficiency an ultimate value, we can come to question the importance of rest, prayer and Sabbath.
What about you? Do you agree with this assessment? Which of these best describe how technology impacts you?