catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 9 :: 2013.04.26 — 2013.05.09


A complicated gift

I sometimes get the feeling that a significant number of Christians think that technology — more specifically, things like social media, internet and cell phones — is bad in and of itself. The trend to give up Facebook for Lent only seems to confirm this sense of how harmful it must be. But isn’t technology just a tool? It can, and obviously does, lead to certain excesses. Yet, excesses in other areas, like food, are given names (for example, gluttony or eating disorders); food itself is not considered evil. So why should technology be different? How is it that technology can be a blessing and yet also cause such havoc in our lives? The following are a few of my thoughts and experiences as I try to begin to answer that question.

At the moment my husband and I don’t own a car, and, to be honest, I love it. I bike and travel by train, which means that I have either a chance to exercise or time to read. Biking through storms is less ideal, as are delays, but in comparison to traffic jams and the expenses of a car, the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. Yet, as I consider the blessings and challenges of technology, I have to wonder. Do my transportation choices actually reflect a rejection of technology? Yes and no. I reject the false idea that driving is the best and only way to travel, even as I am frustrated that we’ve relied on this one kind of technology so much that we’ve built up systems that make it difficult to live without a car. At the same time, I’ve learned to embrace the technology inherent in public transportation, have learned to see convenience when traveling differently, and — probably through social media — have learned to imagine life without having my own vehicle. Technology is thus something I willingly embrace, including getting a lift in someone else’s car, while at the same time I want to ponder thoughtfully which technology (and how I use it) makes the best use of my own and the world’s resources.

Unlike automobiles and the potential costs and pollution they bring, newer technologies, such as the Internet, smart phones and social media, seem to have much less cost. Yet, perhaps the cost of this technology is even greater: time, energy and attention. The pressure to keep up-to-date and be constantly available and the lure of endless information and entertainment can make us feel like this technology is running our lives. Developing the muscles to create healthy boundaries — how and when to answer the phone or e-mails, or how much time we spend on the Internet, Pinterest or Facebook — is a challenge. Yet, it is a challenge worth engaging, as the blessings of this technology abound. Family and friends, even in different countries, are now only an inexpensive call away. For both my commuting husband and a breastfeeding friend, their smart phones have been a great joy as they spend hours each day sitting and waiting. A friend of mine who’s a pastor Facebook to get to know his parishioners better and to encourage and pray for them. I, too, see Facebook as a means to help my perpetual inability to know what to say: status updates provide tips for starting a conversation.

The list could go on and on, but the largest blessing of this kind of technology is hidden: it shows our need for community, including the digital kind. The Internet has extended our communities and ability to connect with others; rejecting it entirely is not rejecting some kind of evil, but instead rejecting a good gift of God. Yet, the potential lure and dangers of the Internet and its demands on our life also push us to community: we desperately need others to help us create the healthy boundaries so that this technology can be a blessing for ourselves and others.

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