The over-use and abuse of digital media has been a growing burden to me over the past few years and it’s all come to a head over the past six months or so with numerous counseling problems related to digital technology.
What really pushed me over the edge was knowing someone who had been struggling with porn and who was beginning to beat it. But that only created another problem as he simply replaced his obsession with porn with an obsession with social media. Porn was a symptom more than a cause. The deeper problem was simply an addiction to digital technology. He couldn’t leave his phone alone, day or night.
I was also increasingly frustrated with seeing students distracted by technology in the classroom. I’ll write more about this in the future, but last semester I banned all students from using technology in my classes. I’ve never enjoyed a semester of teaching so much in my life, with tremendous interaction and fellowship in almost every class. Thus far, student feedback has been positive too.
I’m 100% convinced that there’s nothing more important for individual Christians than to get digital technology under control. I really mean that. This is going to make or break our Christian lives and our churches for decades to come.
Judging from the comments and the emails I’ve received in the past few days, it looks like I’ve struck a chord. Here’s a sample:
Last summer I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts and cut way back on blogging. Best decision I’ve made in a long time! It was very liberating. Among other benefits my concentration has increased and stress level has decreased. (Diane Bucknell).
These are two benefits I also experienced on my recent vacation when I had something close to a digital fast.
I recently went back to a “dumb phone” because I was struck by seeing in my own life so much of what you stated above. It was eating away at my vitality, even while my own heart tried to “sell” me on all the ways that the tech was useful. For me, once I forced myself to soberly look at what was going on, the benefits could not hold a candle to the detriments. I struggle to get my family to realize the dangers inherent in technology in a loving and caring way – I usually end up teasing them about it so it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed. (Anonymous)
I sympathize with the difficulty in getting family onboard. Heavy-handed just drives it underground. Haven’t tried humor and teasing but maybe worth a try.
It’s also killing our churches. Many churches are losing that ‘up close and personal’ organic relational aspect, where we have real people in our lives during the week. I don’t know about you reader, but to me it feels like not having enough oxygen. I know of several good churches where people are leaving because of this … they may not put it in terms of the oxygen metaphor above, but these people are expiring because something essential to life in the body is missing. (David)
Yes, I should have added this to my first post. Digital technology is also killing our churches. I’m concerned at the number of people using smartphones as their church Bible or to take notes. Unless they use airplane mode, the temptation to check-in while worshipping God is way too much for most of us.
This has been weighing heavy on my mind as we start the new year. I think of how much time I waste on things like Facebook and Twitter and how much that takes away from the truly important things. I am not going to totally disconnect but I plan to severely restrict the amount of time I spend on social media. (Jeff Shealy)
Yes, Jeff. that’s my aim too. I’m not going to starve myself, but I am going to significantly reduce my data intake.
I would think this article would also speak to “gaming” & the amount of time it can consume in a person’s life. (Kathleen Peck)
Yes, gaming should also be included in the detox. It’s not something I’ve ever had a problem with. I confess, I can’t understand the fascination with video games — probably because I’m not very good at them.
A few people pointed out the irony of using digital media to call for a digital detox. I concede it’s somewhat paradoxical but I still believe that we can use digital media to ultimately reduce our digital intake.
I thought I’d try a Facebook Live on the subject of digital detox. I haven’t done this before but I think it could be a good forum for answering questions, expanding the blog posts, and adding additional material. I’ll be online at 1pm ET. Hope to see you then.
One person asked:
“How would you categorize nonvocational reading of books on a device? And the books I’m thinking about in the question are solid books. I’ll grant that reading tripe is a waste of time whether read in traditional book form or digitally.”
I’ll address this in more detail in a future post, but the research shows that while there are benefits to using an e-reader (cheaper books, easier to carry, etc), reading a real book results in greater recall and light-emitting e-readers spoil sleep.
I’ve swung back and forwards on this but I’m definitely moving more to books than ebooks for relaxation reading. I’ve given up trying to read eBooks on my iPad or iPhone because I just cannot concentrate with so many other Apps enticing me. I sometimes use a basic Kindle but I do find paper books put me in a different and better mental state compared to eBooks. For work purposes, I like to use the Kindle Desktop App as it not only allows me to copy and paste but also produces a decent footnote.
Marshall McLuhan Can Save Us From Destroying Humanity With Tech
A look back at McLuhan’s penetrating and prophetic voice and what he’d say to us today.
Pyromaniacs: The End
Frank Turk explains why he’s heading over the horizon and turning his back on blogging. He’s too hard on himself, overstates his case, and paints with too broad a brush. But there’s much truth in what he says and I’ve certainly been carefully and prayerfully weighing his comments.
Social Media Resolutions for 2017
There’s much more that could be said but this is a good start.
The Right to Disconnect
France has passed laws giving employees the right to disconnect from work emails during certain hours.
Though ridiculed in some quarters as a ban on work-related email after hours, it is not quite that. But it is born of the enlightened view that it is actually beneficial for people not to work all the time, and that workers have the right to occasionally draw the line when their employer’s demands intrude on evenings at home, treasured vacations or Sundays with friends and family.
3 Things Parents Can Do to Keep Your Kids From Sexting
Did you know, sexting is the 6th largest major health concern among children. According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, it ranks right below child abuse and of more concern that teen pregnancy and school violence.
Millennials and Social Media
Simon Sinek is author of the best-selling Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In this video he speaks a about a range of issues relating to millennials. At 3.15, he addresses technology and social media use. In hard-hitting comments he argues that this has become a societal addiction and the main reason for poor self-esteem and shallow relationships.