I’m officially terrified. Not the normal-everyday type of terror as when I hit every single red light on the way to the train station and I’m afraid I might not make the train I need to get to arrive at work on time. Not the “’oh no – I just ate another plate of Christmas cookies and I haven’t exercised in over a week” despair. And not the, “I haven’t gotten 7 -8 hours sleep since…..I’m too tired to remember” anxiety. Nope – this is the “what is the world coming to; I think the world is getting exponentially worse moment-by-moment” type of terror.
- The Royal Society for Public Health in the UK asked 14-24 year-olds how social media platforms impacted their health and wellbeing. Results showed all forms led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness.
- Teens ages 13- 17 send an average of 3364 texts per month, while 33% state they send more than 100 texts a day.
- 11 hours per day, 11-18 year olds spend over 11 hours per day exposed to electronic media
- Recent research is investigating the negative effects of cumulative screen time (phone, computer, ipad, TV, etc. minutes combined) which shows children and teens’ relational and emotional development is leading to more negative behaviors, depression and an overall decrease in the satisfaction of life
Bottom line, technological use is eroding the happiness, critical thinking, relational connection and compassion in a large majority of the next generation. And none of the research indicates it is going to move in a positive direction; instead, experts believe it will only get worse and we have yet to understand the full negative ramifications.
What do we do in light of such a discouraging forecast? We do what we always do; we engage in “God-first” thinking. We remind ourselves of the mandate that God gives each of His people; we are to invest in relationships with one another that engage in heart and Kingdom matters. Too often technology is a distraction from relational connection as it engages the gratification centers of our brain, pursues bullet point facts or information and allows us to insulate ourselves away from hard conversations, which lead to effective conflict resolution. Relationships require BOTH quality and quantity of time and our time is compromised when I invest in a relationship with my devices more than I do with those around me.
Intimacy is the characterizing attribute we are working to cultivate between one another. Intimacy grows in a relationship when we disclose vulnerably to one another in safe and trusted ways; intimacy grows when who I am is valued as a person no matter my flaws. We value one another with honor when we take the time to engage in non-distracted conversation, listening and encouraging one another in consistent and dependable ways. Just like God does with us.
God is always with me; God is always listening to me; God is unchanging in His devotion, attention and care for me. To grow as a believer is to be conformed to the image of God in Christ and to do that, I need to choose intentionally to invest my attention and effort into my relationship with God, which will then flow into my relationships with those around me.
Practically, pursue intimacy with God and others by considering the following:
- Remember, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Cor. 10:23) Choose to use technology only in ways that profit and edify your soul and the souls of others. This requires self-reflection and self-assessment and won’t look the same for everyone; think edification over legalism.
- Media can be missional when it advances Kingdom matters, which can include a right understanding of man’s relationship with God, wisdom to flourish in the God-given lives God has given us and advance the world’s understanding of God and His gospel message. Choose wisely the words you post in social media; if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face and it is not first loving, don’t say it.
- God has given you a set amount of moments in this world; consider how you will be accountable for all the time you spend on electronic media and make sure you teach your children to do the same.
- New is not always better; consider giving more money to your local church, missions or a worthy organization that is teaching God’s word rightly rather than buying the newest technology.
Reader, the key to making sure we are using our technology wisely is both an internal and external matter. We start with the internal by prayerfully reflecting on our choices, habits and needs. We then have our internal convictions and priorities result in careful consideration of how and when I use technology. We take responsibility that if I am to impact the next generation to thirst after God, then I must first live a life myself that is obviously displaying a thirst for God myself.
Psalm 63:1, “You, god, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
Until next we meet here in Teachable Moments, may the lover of our souls Himself give each of us discernment in how we pursue His kingdom in a digital world.