Battling with technopoly (3)
How to live faithfully in the iPod generation
Over the last two months, we have seen the harmful effects that technopoly can exert. However, our use of technology need not degenerate into technopoly.
Technopoly can be resisted. In order to resist it, we must engage in the very activities which it seeks to destroy. In other words, we must attack the symptoms of technopoly; we must engage with our world, pay attention to the important things, and remain embodied when on-line.
Technological disengagement can be resisted by simply engaging our real world. In order to do this we must put limits on our use of technology. We must use this good gift in moderation.
This means that we must set aside times when we are not hooked up to some machine. We must turn off our televisions, computers, cell phones and other personal technological devices and engage other human beings in meaningful face-to-face conversations.
We must regularly turn off the virtual world and tune in to our real world. Instead of spending endless hours ‘blogging’ with the faceless masses of the digital world, strike up a conversation with one real flesh-and-blood person.
Instead of sending an abbreviated text message filled with cyber acronyms, take the time to speak to someone in carefully considered complete sentences and paragraphs.
In other words, pull the iPod earphones out of your ears and become aware of the world around you. Endeavour to love and know your neighbour. Strive to become aware of the aliens who are constantly entering the gates of your world. Instead of participating in a virtual community, engage your real community.
Technological distraction can be resisted by becoming more attentive to the important things in life. This means we must regularly give our undivided attention to our relationship with God.
Again, we must turn off and tune in. Instead of constantly being distracted by multi-media, make time to be singularly focused on God. Like the psalmist, meditate on God’s unfailing love (Psalm 48:9), mighty deeds (Psalm 77:12) and awesome Word (Psalm 119:97).
Meditation is a powerful weapon in the fight against technopoly because it is entirely anti-technological. While technology has provided us with many helpful tools to study God’s Word, true communion with God cannot be achieved through technological devices. You simply can’t Google your way to spiritual maturity. So disconnect from ‘MySpace’ and make some space for your relationship with God.
Technological disembodiment can be resisted by refusing to divorce your actions from your body. You must remain embodied on-line and you can accomplish this by adopting some simple principles to govern your involvement with the virtual world.
First, when you’re on-line embody the principle of virtual modesty. In 1 Corinthians 12:23, the apostle Paul notes that there are parts of our bodies which are not to be exhibited and should therefore be treated with ‘special modesty’.
That special modesty is exercised by covering these parts. We honor these parts by privatising them. While Paul was addressing our physical bodies, this principle of modesty also extends to other intimate aspects of our lives.
Therefore, make it a rule to never put intimate details about your life, or the lives of others, on the Internet. Treat these most intimate details with special modesty. Don’t allow yourself to become disembodied through virtual immodesty.
Second, when you’re on-line embody the principle of virtual civility. Establish rules to govern your electronic discourse. For instance, make it a rule to never say anything cruel about another person on the Internet.
Prohibit yourself from engaging in ‘cyber-gossip’ and ‘cyber-bullying’. Let the golden rule guide all your actions there, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,’ (Matthew 7:12). Don’t allow yourself to become disembodied through virtual incivility.
You must control your use of technology. Engage your real world; pay attention to what’s truly important; instead of becoming disembodied, become embodied by never morally divorcing your actions from your body in the virtual world. This is how you resist technopoly in your life.
In the 19th century, a group of garment workers violently opposed the introduction of mechanisation. They attempted to resist technological progress by destroying the machines which threatened to replace their labour in England’s garment industry. This led to the ‘Luddite’ movement.
Today, the term ‘Luddite’ is used pejoratively to refer to a person who opposes technological advances. Most people think the lesson to be learned from the Luddites is that it is foolish to oppose technological progress. However, Neil Postman has noted that the real lesson is not that it is foolish to oppose technology, but rather that technological advances produce both winners and losers.
Postman’s point is that every advance in technology gives us something, but it also takes away something from us. Technology took away the livelihood of the Luddites and it has the potential to take away things from you as well.
Jesus warns us that things can cost us our soul, ‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ (Matthew 16:26).
It is vital for Christians, and for Christian parents, to realise that the use of technology has spiritual implications. Therefore, a wise Christian recognises this reality and becomes a shrewd and discerning user of technology.
A wise Christian counts the cost of his use of technology and never allows it to become a weapon in the hands of Satan. So next time you plug in, turn on, log on or boot up – consider well whether you are using technology or whether it is using you.
The author is visiting professor at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA, and a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. He is the author of The 24/7 Christian: Practical help from the book of James (EP Books).