If I am being honest, I have to admit that my iPhone habits have been largely unchecked, undisciplined, and unhealthy. And in a recent survey of 8,000 of our readers, many of you honestly admit the same struggle.
We asked you to finish this sentence: As I evaluate my life right now, my use of social media [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram] is . . .
(A) . . . under control, limited, and healthy.
(B) . . . not controlled or restricted, but also not having a negative influence on my life.
(C) . . . uncontrolled and unhealthy. I check my social networks compulsively throughout the day, and it’s probably not good for me.
About 40% of you answered (B) — you don’t intentionally limit your social media use, and you don’t notice harmful effects as a result.
Those of you who chose (C) — who admit your unlimited social media habits are unhealthy — were noticeably younger. Readers 18 to 39 are nearly twice as likely to call their habits injurious (38.5%) than those over forty (20.9%).
Simultaneously, among users who answered (A) — your social media habits are limited and healthy — the age-forty-plus respondents were twice as high (38.9%) as their younger counterparts (19.1%).
Social media self-doubt seems to break along a generational divide, and those of us under forty are perhaps most eager for a reminder to get offline and find a healthy balance with our phones.
So I turned to historian Bruce Hindmarsh. In studying the life and theology ofJohn Newton, I depended on his groundbreaking research, captured in the bookJohn Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition.
As a professor of spiritual formation at Regent College in Vancouver and a historian of the eighteenth century, Hindmarsh keeps an eye on the cultural influences on Christians today, which certainly includes digital communications technology. His thoughtful perspective brings wisdom and balance to the mobile milieu.
iPhones and Discipleship
We live in an age of technological advance, with all its glory, conveniences, and consequences. How does this culture harm or hinder the spiritual life of the Christian?
Hindmarsh is concerned with form (the platforms and devices that shape our habits) as much as he is concerned with content (the gossip, slander, and porn that spread through the devices). The medium is part of the message. Our phones are “not just another envelope to throw the same content inside,” he said.
Our unchallenged social-media habits pose one of the most pressing discipleship challenges in the church today, according to Hindmarsh. In our three-part interview series, he offered five concerns and then followed with five practical responses.
Concern 1: Our Spiritual ADD
“Our spiritual condition is one of having spiritual ADD,” he says. “We are more easily distracted from the important issues of our lives moment by moment. The nature of digital communication is that we are endlessly distracted.”
So is the tech trend moving toward more distractions or fewer? He says the Apple Watch is proof these distractions are becoming more intrusive (and according to our survey, most of you agree that wearable tech will only further compound these distractions).
The root problem behind the endless distractions is that it leads to “a dispersed consciousness,” Hindmarsh says. “I remember one of my teachers saying there are some things in the spiritual life you need to be reminded of every six minutes — ‘recollected’ is the old word for this: We live in the presence of God, we live intentionally, and we live out of a calm center, spiritually.”
Digital distractions challenge all this, leading to a loss in worldview.
Concern 2: Losing Our Worldview
If we find ourselves living with a dispersed consciousness, we are not living from a cohesive worldview. Digital communication is atomization, “literally, at the level of a code, broken up into atoms.” He’s right. Digital information is broken down into a sequence of zeros and ones, a metaphor of the danger.
This atomization of information, where life gets broken down and processed in bits and bytes, “means it is harder and harder to see how things are connected to wholes, to how things are integrated, how one particular insight is connected to God’s world. Instead, we experience the world as fragments.” It becomes increasingly difficult to operate from a central worldview that orients our lives to everything else.
Concern 3: Losing Our Filters
There is also a loss of knowledge hierarchies. “It used to be that if I wanted to publish, just the expense of publishing meant that my proposal went through a peer review process. It went through rigorous scrutiny prior to it being released. There are many good things about being able to directly get one’s message out. But the loss of hierarchies is potentially a loss of filtering — a loss of wisdom. It means that knowledge is not a part of a system of apprenticeship, of learning from those who have experience in wisdom, who have been entrusted and authorized. And so there is a way that we have lost that ability to see things in terms of how they relate to trusted authorities.”
…for the rest of this post, click here to go to the original article on desiringGod.org
Author: Tony Reinke