In the world of technology, there are genuine blessings that God has given to us. Everything from language to hospitals, vehicles to copy machines, comes down from the Father of lights (Jas 1:17). They are gifts from the Creator. He has enabled those in his image to follow along, in their own limited way, by fashioning world-changing technology. But any blessing can become an idol when we allow it to dominate us and distract us from the Giver.
“When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us.” (Dyer, From the Garden to the City)
Technology can very easily dominate and distract us. I am laying aside the standard Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube apps, of which most people recognize the positives and negatives, pitfalls and snares.
Here are two very common apps which could hook someone…
Vine: 6 second looping videos. You can pack a lot into 6 seconds, and it doesn’t take much searching, or a very thorough knowledge of human nature, to figure out what kind of videos are going around.
Snapchat: send a picture and then have it “disappear” after being viewed. This seems to cater to a desire to “live wild” but leave “little evidence.”
I am sure these apps have positive features and some redeeming quality, but so does having a tiger for your household pet.
Jas 1:12- 15 – “12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Here are some questions that you need to ask about your family and the devices you use. You can take these questions and go to the extreme and demand you see every message your teen sends out, but I doubt that is the danger that we are facing today. Rather, I think the extreme we see is the opposite and deadly danger, the hands off, ignorance is bliss approach.
So, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and let them start some conversations with your family.
1. Do I know how much my teen is using their device?
Perhaps for some circumstances a better question would be, “Can I think of times when my teen is not on their device?” Do they use it in the middle of the night? Are they using it during meals and other family times? Are they using it when they should be personally engaged with someone else or something else (like school work)?
How about you as a parent? Are they picking up their habits while watching you?
2. Do I know what my teen is using their device for?
Are they listening to music, watching movies, surfing the internet, texting friends, or reading books? Do you know what their devise is capable of? The answer is, their device is capable of pretty near anything. You may want to see what apps they have installed and what those apps are capable of doing (for anyone wondering, an “app” is short for “application” and it is a program that enables you to do something on your device.)
3. Do I know who my teen is listening to with their device?
Who are they following? Whose pages do they frequent? Who is sending a stream of information to your teen through their device and how is it shaping their worldview? With a doorway into everything and everyone in the world (good or bad) in their pocket, don’t be surprised when you see changes in your teen.
4. Do I know who my teen is communicating with on their device?
“Texting? We don’t even have a plan.” Wrong answer. Any Apple device can send instant messages through iMessage and a number of other apps. Android devices have plenty as well.
“Their iPod can’t make calls, right?” Wrong.
Are they writing comments, receiving pictures, or sending videos?
The point of asking these questions is to get a better understanding of what is actually going on. Once you can make a determination of what is happening, you can be better prepared to guide your teen into wisdom.
Please don’t let these devices be chains which enslave you or your family. May they be blessings for your growth.
Tools are multifaceted. A tool such as a hammer can be used for a variety of purposes like pounding a nail, breaking a rock, or smashing a spider. A fork can be used to eat your spaghetti, or dislodge weeds in your garden. A Swiss Army Knife is multifaceted because there are many tools bundled into one package. One can cut bread, pop tabs, pull a splinter, and dislodge food between the teeth with any number of the tools gathered.
Properly using social media is growing more difficult because of the variety of ways people use the tool. As its uses expand, the platform changes to incorporate those uses. (We can say the same about the tools we use to access social media, such as computers, cell phones, and now glasses).
Here are two suggestions for Social Media use:
1. Pick a use, and stick with it.
Because of the changing horizons of tools and uses, each individual has to determine what the tool is meant for?
Twitter: the worst place on the internet to attempt debate.
There are certain things that a tool is not capable of doing, at least in a way that leads to desirable results. We have all heard about the pocket knife arm amputation, but no one wants to be that guy.
How do you determine this? Here are several questions to ask yourself:
1. What can I say?
2. How can I say it? Can I use words, a picture, or a 6 second video?
3. How much room do I have to develop what I want to say?
Pick your use, let it be known, and be consistent. Your “friends” will thank me. This is not to say that you can’t wear socks as mittens in a pinch, but don’t make a habit of it (that’s weird).
2. Pick an Audience and stick with it:
The audience and accessibility of the information determines what I post and what I will not. You can’t always determine who will read or view what you post, but you need to keep them in mind.
1. LinkedIn: If I used this, I would post information for those who want to read my resume.
2. Twitter: What I post on Twitter is what I wouldn’t mind pasting to my car as a bumper sticker. Anyone can read Twitter, and it will stay up there for a long time…even the 144 character rants.
Some people post a lot to Facebook. That is fine. But that isn’t for everyone.
4. Blog: for those who want to read my calendar and notes. This information is open for anyone surfing the web, so I won’t be ranting about everything (except for the “You Said What?!” posts). Here though, I am able to explain myself with more than 144 letters, without relying on emoticons, and without those awful abbreviations (insert lol and dancing smiley face).
5. Dinner Table:for those who want to read my journal
If you come into my home, I have made myself vulnerable to you. You can see where I live, what I love, and how I eat. I am already opening up to you, and chances are good that you will learn more about me.
“The guiding principle is this: technology is for the table. This doesn’t mean that technology and the table are in opposition, only that everything we do with our tools—scheduling appointments on our phones, heating up meals in the microwave, reading updates from friends and family on social networks—should all be directed toward enriching the few, precious face-to-face encounters we have in our busy world” (Dyer, From the Garden to the City)
How should I use this tool? Everyone will answer in a different way. The celebrity, marketing agent, and soccer mom will all use Facebook in a different way for a different purpose. But, you have seen the mess that happens when one person tries to use it for everything.
You can’t have it all. You can’t use your fork to eat your spaghetti and hoe your garden at the same…or at least without making a mess and eating dirt. When you hold a tool, pick a use and pick an audience. We will all be happier.
In second grade, being at the front of the line was the biggest goal in life. I think I’m still a second grader at heart. It is so easy to think that I need to stay on top of the latest book, conference, debate, news, or score. It is like competing…except there is no real winner.
One way that this shows itself is by constantly checking a certain blog, website, or news feed. This takes valuable time and squanders it, especially if your internet connection is slow.
Here are a few ways I have found, or am working on, to be more self controlled in that area:
Once a Day – if it works for vitamins, it can work for media
I really don’t need to check the news more than once a day unless I truly want to discourage myself. Every time I do, it is like a kick in the stomach.
The same goes for Facebook and Twitter. If I just wait until evening to check Facebook I can catch up on what someone had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at the same time (since that seems so important to post for everyone to see)
Make someone else do your errands for you
Use a blog reader such as Feedly
Don’t waste time going to individual sites, have a reader that brings all the content to you. Then only check it once a day.
Have blog posts sent to your email
If you aren’t much on feeds and readers, have the posts sent straight to your email (Exhibit A – If you are reading this in your browser you see the signup on the right hand side. Very easy to use. If you are reading this in your email, pass Go and collect $200)
I find this is helpful for a variety of reasons – I don’t have to regularly check back. I don’t forget about the blog. I keep getting the helpful posts for personal growth even when I am focusing more on survival. I can put them in a folder and read them later.
We all remember our mothers telling us that snacking in between meals would ruin our appetite, but we seem to forget that it is the same with media. Maybe checking some form of media every 20 minutes is ruining our appetite for real life.
What would happen if you gave up a short term media avenue for a few weeks and dedicated that time to something long term. For example, what would happen if you took your 30 minutes a day you spend on Facebook and you actually read a book? At the end of two weeks you would have gotten through that book you have been meaning to read for…about…well, how long has Facebook been around?
Those are just some thoughts. What would you suggest?