We tend to embrace technology without much consideration. Advancements must be good because, after all, they are advancements. If we can be more connected to people and process more information then it must be a win. Right? Why should we even give it a second thought?
The ubiquity of smartphones should cause us to think for a minute. According to Pew Research data, 58 percent of Americans have smart phones while 90 percent have a cell phone (source). This is a very connected society. It is also a very new phenomenon in history. This should cause us to think and ask some questions.
For example, is this level of connection necessary? Is it good, harmful or indifferent? Is it changing me? Is it changing the way I relate to others and do my job?
I am a pastor. I also have an iPhone. As a result, I have had to think through a number of things and make some adjustments in terms of productivity and technology. It has been a process over the last several years. I think I am actually thinking about this and applying it in a healthy way now.
Below are some considerations and conclusions based on my own personal examination. This is slanted toward pastoral ministry but not limited to it.
1. An iPhone is neutral; it is not inherently bad or good.
We can fall off the cart on both sides here: Technology is bad, therefore stay away; or technology is awesome, therefore immerse yourself and your life in it. The technology is neutral. It has unfathomable potential, but the moral assessment of how it is used pivots on the user. This helps me keep the conversation where it needs to be: on me, not simply on technology.
2. Our phones are more of a mirror and magnet than anything else.
The phone tells us what we truly value. Like a magnet it pulls out of our heart what we think is important. What do we learn about the woman who is always on Facebook or Pinterest? How about the guy who is constantly refreshing the sports scores? What about the man who looks at pornography? How about the student who is obsessed with taking pictures of themselves and staring at pictures of others? How we use technology tells us who we are. It is a mirror and a magnet.
3. Technology is a very useful tool; it is a horrible master.
It’s been said before, and rightly so: Technology is a tool, not a master. It cannot dictate our lives. We cannot be frozen without it.
4. Alerts are mislabeled: They are interruptions.
I used to have alerts for pretty much everything. New email? Alert. Someone tweets at me? Alert. Facebook like? Alert. Breaking News? Alert. You get the idea. You can guess what would happen. My phone would beep and buzz all day long. Then I’d get curious, “What is it? I should really check and see.” You know what happens then, right? You become enslaved to whatever alert there is. And the odds are, whatever you are working on at the moment is actually much more important than whatever else “just happened.”
A number of years ago I began turning off alerts, one by one. At present I have no alerts on my phone accept a phone call or a text message. I cannot imagine it being any other way. If I want to know something, I go and find out, when it is convenient and appropriate. Limiting the alerts means limiting the interruptions.
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