Technology challenges most of us. How much is too much? How do we keep up? Why should we care? How do we stay in charge of it rather than letting it rule us? Friend Tracey Bianchi talks us through the buttons on our smart phones, and the motivation behind which ones we punch and when.
The Human Element
By Tracey Bianchi
"REPLY ALL, I hit REPLY TO ALL!" I winced as I explained to my husband that in a flurry of activity I'd managed to share our formerly undisclosed plans to escape for a weekend (and skip out on youth sports) with an entire little league team. I'd also managed to call the team parents, "Honey" and "Baby" while I was at it.
Many of us know the angst of having hit "SEND" too soon. Or, responding to a group text you thought was a solo conversation. Or, the joys of "AUTOCORRECT" speaking for us. We lament these now commonplace faux pas and laugh them off by sending a quick emoji apology. We text. We type. We have smartphones on which we rarely make a phone call. We have more devices that deliver digital media in most American households than we have people. Today, our automobiles, academic institutions, workplaces, retirement communities are all wired, a fact seems to either upset or excite.
As we click and worm our way through digital content we pause and wonder, "How much content is too much? Should I take a break from Facebook? Should I be on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, too? What is the toll of all digital media on the human soul? Is it good? Bad? Indifferent?"
Facebook recently hit a milestone when in a single day it had one billion users. That's roughly 1/6 of the planet on Facebook in a single day. The Oxford Dictionary declared that their 2015 Word of the Year was actually not a word at all, it was the emoji titled Tears of Joy. At no other point in human history has any generation experienced such rapid movement in technology. So fast have the advances come that we do not yet know the impact of digital media consumption on our health, community and spiritual lives.
We might quip that "kids text too much" or lament the way Facebook can cater to narcissism, "I don't care that you ate pasta for dinner last night."
On the other hand, ask any child with a parent serving in the military what Skype means to them and you see how life-enhancing technology can be. My friend has a child who uses a device similar to Stephen Hawking's to communicate. The only way he can let his peers and teachers know what he does indeed know, is through technology. He cannot run and jump and leap across the playground like his friends but when he joins a group online to play a video game, suddenly the playing field is level. When I holler at my son to "get off the Xbox," is this always, then, the best command to issue?
When it comes to Scripture, we do not have a sermon from Jesus on Amazon Prime or internet etiquette. We do not know if Paul would have binge-watched his favorite shows or been an iPhone or Android user. So, how do we navigate with integrity and grace this untamed frontier? Everywhere I go, I hear people of all ages and life stages asking questions about digital media consumption. Consider these words, from Paul, penned on a scroll and hand delivered over 2,000 years ago:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17
Perhaps the questions we should be asking do not involve the number of hours on a screen or the volume of texts sent in one day but instead, involve the intention and integrity of the user. The focus should be on the user rather than the device itself - the human element. As we seek to navigate our digital culture, let us more importantly, seek integrity and wisdom on the user end of our devices. Our tech gadgets are tools, agents of change, they can bring immeasurable good (or evil) depending on the heart of the user.
God has placed us in this time in history; let us be people who seriously consider the task at hand.
Tracey Bianchi is the Worship and Teaching Pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook (Chicago). She is also the co-author (with Adele Calhoun) of True You: Moving Beyond Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice, a book on the call, passion and gifts of women. Connect with her at traceybianchi.com.