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In our modern world, we find ourselves more distracted than ever. We struggle because we want to stay focused on what is important but we watch in seeming helplessness as technology draws and keeps our attention. Who among us hasn’t logged on to a social media site only to look up and realize we just spent 45 minutes on virtually nothing? Or, we find our attention constantly drawn to the beeps, bells, and ring tones of our smart phones.
At the core of who we are, we desire to live lives in which we are deeply loving God and others. What this requires is being fully present to others and living with an awareness of God’s presence. However, modern technology seems to clash with this desire constantly.
Social scientists have noted that many of us are actually addicted to our devices. The average American checks their cell phone every 20-30 seconds. Half of us check our cell phone first thing in the morning (66% of millennials) and last thing before going to bed. 75% of us never turn off our cell phones, and a growing number of people sleep with their cell phone in their bed. Leadership author and speaker Simon Sinek reports that the same chemical that is released in our brains through gambling, smoking, and alcohol is released when we engage our cell phones and social media. It simply feels good when we get a text or receive a “like.” We may experience the distractions and the addictions and feel powerless against these forces.
We may know that we have a problem, but the problem is not technology. Technology is nothing new. A technology is anything we utilize to make our lives easier. The challenge arises when we stop using technology and we become a slave to it. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says: “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” (ESV)
So, what do we do? How do we interact with technology in a way that nurtures our life with God rather than distracts us?
I would suggest three practices that can transform the way we interact with technology.
First: examine your heart. Prayerfully ask God to show you the motives of your heart. What drives your use of technology? Are there forces at work that are leading to being “enslaved” to your devices? Is it needing to be more productive? Is it not wanting to miss out on what others are doing? Is it simply that you are suffering from an addiction to the endless rabbit holes of social media and google searches? As the Lord graciously gives insight, entrust your heart to Him. Allow Him to be your source of security, strength, and significance. For example, when I experience envy as I view a friend’s post from their month long vacation to Maui, it can be transformed into
Second: create boundaries. We simply do not need to have our technology on all the time. It is not physically, emotionally, or mentally healthy. Learn to use “airplane mode” on your phone. Turn devices off at certain times during the day (meals, meetings, times of prayer, church, etc.). Make a decision to stop technology use at some point before going to sleep and only turn things back on in the morning after you’ve attended to your relationship with God. Be creative and talk about technology boundaries with your family and community.
Third: practice meditative prayer. Research has shown that we are better able to battle the distractions of life (technology included) when we spend time each day in quiet, meditative prayer. I’ve found that simply sitting quietly, meditating on an aspect of God’s character as I let go of other thoughts and distractions works well. Bottom line: carve out time each day to be quiet and sit with God in an undistracted way. It takes time to learn to sit still, but it will transform your ability to be present throughout the rest of the day. Consider Psalm 62:1, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
Technology is a gift to free up space in our lives to focus on what is most important.
Through intentional, prayerful practices, technology can remain just that, a gift, rather than a distraction that keeps us from what is truly important.