Does technology cause depression?

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2005 © Daniela Spyropoulos. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman describes our seemingly hedonistic age as “The age of melancholy” and blames the pervasive sadness on technology. He is quoted in this New Scientist article by Amichai-Hamburger (seriously!) which shares Goleman’s view of technological oppression and and proposes the solution of self-determination theory (SDT). SDT “identifies three vital elements of healthy personal development and functioning which can be used to calibrate our relationship with technology.”

The first is autonomy – the feeling that our activities are self-chosen and self-endorsed. When we feel in control, we are able to organise our priorities and place effective boundaries around them.

 

We also need a sense of competence, a belief that our actions are effective…knowing which activities are important to us and carrying them out in the most effectual way possible, making use of technology where applicable.

 

The other factor is relatedness: our need to feel close to other people. Technology is a threat to this…Psychologists have found that the pivotal difference between happy and unhappy people is the presence or absence of rich and satisfying social relationships. Spending meaningful time with friends, family and partners is necessary for happiness.

It’s fascinating to observe the best attempts of the best minds to analyze the fundamental unhappiness of the human race and come up with their own Gospel – autonomy, competence, and relatedness – which may give some limited temporary happiness. However the true Gospel diagnoses a deeper problem – not technology but sin. And it proposes quite different solutions. Instead of autonomy, it is dependence on Christ. Instead of competence, it is admitting our weakness and doing all in Christ’s strength. Instead of relatedness to people, it is relationship to God through Jesus Christ. 

But to return to the original question, I do believe that technology has a role in causing some depression. Look at this scary infographic for how much data is passing through our minds each day. There is no way the human mind can take this amount of stimulation without wearing down and running out of gas eventually. We need to build quiet time into our day to allow our minds time to rest and renew. We also need to remember that Elijah heard the Lord’s voice not in the midst of sensational stimulation but in the quiet stillness.


The Happiness Project

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Gretchen Rubin spent the last year “test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.” The result is a book called The Happiness Project (# 2 on NYT bestseller list and also on my reading list). On her blog, Gretchen “shares her insights on how to create your own happiness project.”


Thankfully every Christian already has their own happiness project. Or maybe we should say that God has made each Christian a happiness (holiness?) project. I’m reminded of Derek Thomas’s reply when he is asked by a fellow plane passenger what he does: “My job is to make people eternally happy!” Quite a conversation starter! (or sometimes a stopper?).

 

Anyway, every Wednesday is Tip Day on Gretchen’s blog. This week she gave Seven tips for avoiding an office affair. I thought the advice was not only relevant for Christians in the workplace, but also transferable to pastors (to some extent).You can read the whole piece here, but this is a summary of her main points:

 

1. Never take a first step in flirtation, even in jest.

2. Never have more than one drink with people from work. If that.

3. Never confide details from my personal life to people from work, and don’t allow them to confide in me.

4. Never allow myself to have a “special friend” of the attractive sex (sometimes called a “work spouse”) to whom I turn for particular support. (This is sometimes called an “emotional affair.”)

5. Unless it’s an unmistakably professional context, don’t meet alone with a colleague or client of the attractive sex.

6. Imagine your spouse/partner as an audience – cc’d on the email, listening to the phone call, walking suddenly into the conference room. If you’d feel uncomfortable in that situation, you’ve crossed some line.

7. If you develop a close relationship with someone from the attractive sex at work, get to know his or her family. That puts a damper on starting an affair.

 

There’s no doubt if some Christians and some Pastors had followed this advice they and their families would have had much more happiness and much less sadness.

 

Gretchen does question some of these tips and ends with the following questions, which you may want to respond to:


Do you agree with these tips? Do you think they’re too restrictive? Unnecessary? Would you suggest other strategies?


Good recoveries from bad communications

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2007 © Hugo Maes. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.

 Every Pastor has done it. Said something. Written something. Then regretted everything. What now? Run? Deny? Stand and fight? Attack?

John Baldoni gives advice to businesses that mishandle reorganizations and downsizing in Good Recoveries from Bad Communications

Acknowledge the problem. People are upset and confused. You need to note their disgruntlement. To ignore it is to be as rude as the communications directive.

 

Apologize. Take the high road. Even if the mistake was not yours, as part of management, you should accept blame and apologize. You may express sympathy but do not throw senior management under the bus. Doing so will only make you seem like a finger-pointer.

 

Refocus on the reason for the communication. Explain the reason for the communication and why the initiative is necessary. This gets you past the poor delivery and focused on the business.

 

Allow people to express their points of view. Let them vent. Sometimes reorganizations will bring personal hardship, such as more responsibilities, lack of additional compensation, or worse — loss of a job. You are allowed to acknowledge the pain.

 

Refocus on the initiative. Put an end to the formal venting and refocus on the business case. Even though the communication was mishandled, the reasons for it may be sound. Stand up for the company.

 

Much here that could help Pastors in the midst of church troubles that have at least partly resulted from miscommunications. And above all, through all, ending all, of course, is prayer to our perfect Communicator and powerful Peacemaker.


Six laws of human nature

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2008 © Martin Green. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Martin Green. Michael Marshall writes on the New Scientist website on the Five Laws of Human Nature. He actually describes more than five, but here are the ones I’ve seen operating in the Church and in my own life – some for good and some for ill!

1. The Peter Principle: In any organization people reach the level of their own incompetence.
2. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for it’s completion
3. Law of Triviality: The amount of time an organization spends discussing an issue is inversely proportional to its importance (mainly because “nobody dares to expound on important issues in case they are wrong, but everyone is happy to opine at length about the trivial”)
4. Sayre’s Law: In any dispute, the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.
5. Student Syndrome: If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done
6. Pareto Principle: Do the most important 20 per cent of a job in order to get 80 per cent of the reward


They forgot the mission

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2006 © Liam McCarthy. Image from BigStockPhoto.com

In her end of year article, Look ahead with stoicism – and optimism, Peggy Noonan worries that it may be said of the USA: “They forgot the mission.” She surveys the past ten years of various American institutions – the federal government, Wall St, Congress, the Catholic Church, public schools, journalism – and makes a convincing case that, “They forgot the mission.”

Name the institution and you will probably see a diminished sense of mission, or one that has disappeared or is disappearing…And as all these institutions forgot their mission, they entered the empire of spin. They turned more and more attention, resources and effort to the public perception of their institution and not to the reality of it. Everyone gave their efforts to how things seemed and not how they were.

Noonan calls each American to take personal responsibility and to adopt the national watchwords “repair, rebuild and return.” Sounding more and more like an Old Testament prophet than a newspaper columnist as the article progresses, she closes with a series of searching questions:

If you work in a great institution: Do you remember the mission? Do you remember why you went to work there, what you meant to do, what the institution meant to you when you viewed it from the outside, years ago, and hoped to become part of it?

Christians, Churches, Seminaries, Christian ministries, have you forgotten your mission? If so, add a fourth word to Noonan’s watchwords: “REPENT, repair, rebuild and return.”


Do you read 35,000 words a day? Probably

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2005 © Galina Barskaya. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Rumors of Written-Word Death Greatly exaggerated claims Eliot Van Buskirk on the Wired website.

A large-scale study by the University of San Diego and other research universities revealed what some of us have long suspected: We’re reading far more words than we used to as we adopt new technologies.

“Reading, which was in decline due to the growth of television, tripled from 1980 to 2008, because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet,” found a University of San Diego study

Church leaders have rightly complained for years about the detrimental effects of television on the mind and about the decreasing ability of people to read and process verbal and written information. But the internet seems to be changing all that for the better.

Surveys are also showing that people are writing far more than they used to – albeit in short emails, status updates, texts and tweets.

It is indeed a day of great Gospel opportunity. May the Word of the Lord have free course and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1).