Technology: a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, a kiosk, a smart watch. A useful tool to access the world wide web and connect with others. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to read what I’m writing. I’m writing on a tablet and, according to my observations, you are most likely reading it on your smartphone. Maybe a computer. Technology opens many doors for communication and information.
But technology also can also inhibit authentic communication and can easily consume our lives. Our phones quickly become extensions of our hands. If we have a spare moment, or even a lull in conversation, we pull out our phones for the latest text, tweet, post, or pin.
As I’ve observed the pervasiveness of technology in my life, God has challenged me to consider how I use technology and why I use it. And I want to challenge you with these same questions. As we consider this, I want to ensure you understand that I don’t think technology should be avoided or that checking facebook on your phone is wrong. Rather, I want this to be a reminder that we as women living for Christ need to think about our choices rather than simply follow cultural norms.
There are so many beneficial uses of technology: pictures of nephews far away, directions on how to get somewhere, quick communication, food allergen information, when it’s going to rain. But I can easily get sucked into reading a blog and scrolling facebook or pinterest when I just needed to check the temperature outside to see if I need a jacket. I want to be a woman who is disciplined (put down the phone), invests in others (face to face conversations), and is present in the now (aware of those around me).
I’ve been learning from the book of Philippians how Christ-followers are supposed to live selfless lives that humbly serve others. These lessons apply even to technology and the way we use it.
For example, texting is a great way to set up a coffee date (or ice cream, if I get to choose!) with a friend. But when we do get together, I should serve her by fully engaging in conversation without my phone interrupting. Facebook can wait. God has given this meeting to me as an opportunity to invest in another person. Our actions and words are a way that God uses us to bless, challenge, and invest in our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as share His truth with those who don’t yet know Him.
In recent travels, I was struck by how little interaction people have with each other. When waiting for the plane, almost everyone was on their phone reading something, checking something, watching something. There is very little interaction with fellow travelers. Almost as soon as we’re seated, the phone is out, the earbuds in, and an invisible wall built.
I was struck with the way this affects even families. Instead of reading a book with a child on a plane, she is given a tablet with a movie and headphones. Yes, she’s happy and content on the flight, but there is very little in the way of building a relationship and investing in her life through this. How will this experience affect the woman she becomes?
Before I took my trip, I perused a magazine rack to find simple reading for my trip. As I looked, I realized how empty and self-focused most magazines are. They focus on how to improve my body, my house, my cooking, my wardrobe.
But how do magazines relate to technology? Pinterest is essentially a magazine on your phone for whatever you’re interested in…recipes, home decor, parenting, weddings, fashion, photography, history, inspirational sayings. But does it give us unreal expectations? After scrolling through wedding pins, does it leave me discontent wondering when I will get married? With all the parenting tips, do you feel guilty because you didn’t have the perfect pinterest back-to-school picture of your kids (or umpteen other topics)? To be sure, there are benefits of it. A lot of my favorite recipes I found on Pinterest. My sister and I gleaned many tips and ideas from Pinterest for her wedding last summer. But the amount of time we (or maybe it’s just me!) scroll on social media and other apps needs to be limited. Even when I’m by myself, I need to assess the reason I’m on my phone so much, as well as the impacts it has on my heart and mind.
Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians:
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Technology is permissible and it does have its benefits. It is a useful tool, but it can easily consume more of our attention than we realize. We’re the generation who is learning how to integrate technology into our lives (the first iPhone hit the market the summer I started college). Our parents didn’t face this particular challenge when they were our age. So, I challenge you – and I challenge me – to think about how you use technology. It should not just be for our own good, but the good of others. It should not just be a time-filler, but rather a tool. It should not inhibit relationships, but bless them. How are you using technology for the benefit of others? Do you need to put limitations on how you use technology or how much you use it?
While there are benefits to technology, the are also downfalls. I want this article to challenge us to actually think about how we use technology. It doesn’t mean we need to eliminate it. But as followers of Christ, we do need to evaluate it to see if it enables us to live well for Him or not. Our goal in using technology – and in anything – should be for the glory of God.