Technology is quite an amazing thing.
We live in an age of unprecedented access to information and connectedness. We have the convenience of online bill pay, instant downloading of our favorite music, breaking news and sports updates, Google maps with street view. When traveling, I've often asked myself, "what in the world did I ever do before I owned a GPS?". iPods, iPads, iTunes, iCloud... smart phones, smart apps, smart cars,,, smart everything, It goes without saying that these and other technological advances are certainly helpful and very useful in our lives.
I remember in the late 1980's when households were getting their first personal desktop computers. Paranoia gripped a segment of the population who nervously warned us about a drastic shift in the culture. They called it 'virtual reality'. Their far-fetched claim was that physical interaction with people would diminish significantly and that our interaction with computers would comprise most of our existence. We would live life attached to a computer and eventually cease to be who we were meant to be as humans. We would live in a world dominated by so much technology that it would be nearly impossible to tell the difference between what was real and what was fantasy. This seemed to be quite an outlandish prediction at the time.
Today however, the use of such technology is permeating our lives in ways we never thought possible even a decade ago. Some if it is fantastic, but some of it can actually be harmful if we're not careful. Our culture is one that struggles with addictions of many kinds, and with regards to technology we have insatiable appetite for social media. We never seem to get enough.
What's going viral? What's trending? Well, here are a couple things:
- Activism: Social networks have given everyone a platform that they never had before. In an instant, your closest 700 friends get a piece of your mind about something that is near and dear to your heart whether they care about your cause or not. We are all guilty of this if we use things like Facebook or Twitter. There's never a shortage of posts and comments ranging from abortion to physician assisted suicide. People are not shy about telling you their view on same-sex marriage. There are conservative posts, liberal posts and every idea in between. Arguments and rants take place amongst people who are supposed to be 'friends'! We no longer need to organize a protest and carry a sandwich board. We can just type a quick statement, press the enter key and within minutes we have 15 snarky comments!
- Self-centeredness: We love to brag about our vacation, the food we eat, how well-behaved our kids are. We love to post videos of ourselves and take pictures of ourselves. I have even seen self portraits of people in the bathroom mirror! Spare me the gory details please! Social media has given us an opportunity to promote our own glory by shining the spotlight on ourselves and letting us scream, 'look at me!'.
- Foolishness: Lack of wisdom and discretion online is rampant. Sharing too much information, sharing links that contain graphic images and posting questionable memes that leave a shock value impression. Playing games and taking surveys also have the potential to be a huge waste of time, dragging us away from more important things. You know what I mean: "Which Cartoon Character are You?", Candy Crush, etc. I am not against games or surveys. These are not necessarily evil things (depending on the game, of course!). I am simply stating that when those activities consume all of our time and dominate our thinking, we are not being wise. When we're sharing things about ourselves or our families that really are private matters, we are not being wise.
What does God's Word have to say about all of this?
While there is nothing in the Bible specifically about electronic devices, tracking your internet usage or choosing a cell phone plan, it does contain several principles that give us clear direction when dealing with technology:
The Clear Eye Principle: Matthew 6:22-23 says, "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness". Having a 'clear eye' means having a single-minded devotion to Christ. It means that we are entirely focused, free from any distractions, with our eyes set on one prize: namely our Savior. Being zealous for good causes is not inherently evil. In fact, there are many good things to be excited about and involved in. But when these causes pull us away from our Lord, then that is a big deal. When we're distracted from the things of Christ, then it is easy to set Him aside for the sake of our 'pet cause'. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith is an intentional daily discipline requiring much diligence and a heart that desires Him far above all else. The enemy would like nothing more than to put a wedge between us and Christ, and what better way to do it than to have us 'busy' with other things.
The Shut Up Principle: Proverbs 10:19 smacks us with this truth, "where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable". Translation: speaking a lot will eventually lead us to sin. As Christians, sometimes maybe it's best to just shut up. Maybe saying nothing at all actually says volumes. Before we post something on a social media site, we should ask: Is my opinion on this matter REALLY necessary at this time? Is it REALLY that important to stir the pot? Do I REALLY like controversy and confrontation that much? Is what I am about to say online REALLY edifying to those who will read it? Of course there is a time to speak, but we should be very judicious as to when that is, and what words we should use (see also Proverbs 26:4-5 and Proverbs 13:3).
The Justus Principle: Acts 18:7 speaks of a man named Justus. Some Bible versions refer to him as Titius Justus. Not a whole lot is said in regards to this individual, but one thing we know from the Bible text is that he lived next to the synagogue. Another important fact we see, which the writer of Acts thought was a vital detail, is that Justus was a "worshiper of God". When thinking of Justus, one specific and defining characteristic stood out about Justus: he was a worshiper of God. Is social media defining who WE are? Instead of being known as worshipers of God or known for being zealous for the things of the Lord, do people know us for some other external cause we promote? Instead of people knowing us as humble lovers of righteousness, do people see us the way we appear in our massive collection of 'selfies'? Instead of being known as people who are heavenly focused, do people just know us as Farmville players? Just who ARE we anyway?
So, are we to close out our Facebook account and terminate our cell phone data plan? The answer to that is a resounding YES, if that technology is causing a distraction in your relationship with your Savior. Social media can be a great tool and can actually be used to our advantage and benefit, but ONLY if we follow sound principles provided in God's Word that will guide our usage of this advancing technology.