Screens, Technology, and Life

By Pastor Bob Myers

As we replace skills with “easy- button”, instantaneous results, are we losing something? We’ve gone from making bread to ordering packages of pre-sorted ingredients to dump into bread makers. There’s nothing wrong with that on occasion, but what if the device replaces ever learning how to make bread without a bread machine? We’ve lost not only skills but knowledge and process. You could exclusively use a machine to make bread and know nothing about handling yeast or even the existence of yeast in the ingredient list. 

There’s a difference between tools and devices. Tools require us to learn a skill and engage with them. Tools in a workshop mean nothing without the accompanying craftmanship. I don’t need any skill to press a button on a device. And unlike tools, devices work for us when we are not working.  

Tools used to be associated with work, working the fields, working in the kitchen or working on your car. Tools were once stored in a toolbox, but now we have devices that are constantly with us, tethering us to work-consciousness, always nudging us away from being where we really are.  

Tim Keller when recently asked how widespread prayerlessness is said, “This is anecdotal, but everybody I talk to seems so busy, and is communicating so incessantly around the clock, that I do think there is more and more prayerlessness, less and less time where people go into a solitary time or place to pray. I am sure we are more prayerless than we havebeen in the past.What does that say about our spiritual health? “Our spiritual health,” he responded candidly, “is in freefall.

Is our technology helping us manage life, or is our technology managing us?  There are books and articles being birthed all over the place evaluating this and providing commentary and opinions. Is it true that when life gets boring, we increasingly turn to the diversion of our newsfeeds, not to prayer? Do we ever just eat a sandwich and listen to the sound of birds outside? Are we always connected to this tech-umbilical cord? 

The Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who invented many of these devices applied strict limits to access for children. Children are clearly losing emotional strength, resilience, and social connectiveness. But I think they are just the canaries in the coal mines. It’s actually a threat to all of us. Technology can connect me to the small handful of people that I have the ability to connect with and love, or it can spread me so thin that I actually lose any concept of who my friends are, and what I must do in order to be a real friend.  

I won’t even try to summarize what I’ve read from the social scientists. There are even new studies that show the massive investment of technology in our schools are only serving to make students less knowledgeable. But I think those of us who are “plugged in” are recognizing the challenge. Boundary lines are getting more difficult to adhere to. Families and couples should unplug for dinners, for conversations, including conversations with God.  

I was struck with seeing signs that required cell phones be shut off or turned in to enter a recreational facility. People who attended the Masters Tournament turned in their cell phones for the privilege of attending. I’m not arguing we do that in our worship services because I know that many of you use your devices to read the scriptures. But do you check emails or glance at messages during worship? Would you multi-task that way if you were having dinner with the love of your life? 

There are many verses in the Bible that call us to “still and quiet” our souls. To stop the incessant chattering and distractions of our minds will take even more deliberate effort now.  

One of my favorite authors, Andy Crouch, has written a helpful book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place  He writes, "Boredom is actually a crucial warning sign—as important in its own way as physical pain. It’s a sign that our capacity for wonder and delight, contemplation and attention, real play and fruitful work, has been dangerously depleted……"

We only get one life to live. Wouldn’t it be better spent enjoying and serving the world God made rather than a glowing screen?"

I’m not suggesting we all move to Lancaster and join the Amish.  But navigating this is something that requires intentionality and a commitment to boundaries.

Be Still and Know that I am God” (Psalm 46)  is not a suggestion, it is a commandment.