Check Your Phone Too Often? A Three Step Plan to Fight Technology Addiction

By Arthur Boers 

Technology is not neutral. It is hard to resist and – much like junk food –is designed to draw us into habits, some of them unpleasant if not nasty.

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Many devices are actually designed to be addictive. Anyone close to people afflicted with alcoholism say, would never call liquor “merely neutral.” And, finally, all of us have to deal with technology; no one can choose entirely to avoid using cars, phones, or computers.

Since technology is not neutral, it is important to have strategies to limit its hold on our life. I propose three.

First, consider the when of technology use. My father had a habit of daily first and lasts. Early in the day and late at night, he smoked. In many ways, smoking defined each of his days (and finally the end of his life). He did not just smoke at the beginning and end of each day, but all day in between too (as many as two packs a day). His smoking permeated his life figuratively and literally (as his clothes and car and our furniture and curtains all smelled of smoke).

Nowadays a common first and last habit is to turn to screens. Some of us even bring devices to bed, so we can check or respond to them. And, during the day, our screens permeate our days, taking up 8 or 9 or even 11 hours of our day, often several screens at once.

Since the first and last thing that we do and see often shapes all that we do in between, we need to pay attention.

Second, Christians need to take Sabbath seriously. Christians writing about this too often declare that it is no longer possible to honour Sabbaths in our culture!

Ironically, much if not most thinking about Sabbaths these days is done by secular folks. More and more “unbelievers” suggest that we take regular, even weekly, breaks from devices. As well as pauses during every seven-day cycle, consider other pauses, for example while traveling.

We can reclaim the blessings and benefits of Sabbaths without returning to legalism. Rule-free Sundays have not been so liberating after all. We have just gotten a lot busier and inundated with more demands.

Third, one of the most important things we can do is to reclaim the priority of meals.

Meals are central to the gospel, to much church life, to healthy family life, to bringing up children well, and to practicing hospitality. Yet meals have been displaced, degraded, and downplayed in our culture. Let’s encourage households to eat together again. And, while at the table, let’s turn off and put away gadgets and screens.

I am not suggesting that any of these things are easy.

But with persistence they can make a difference. Christians need to start thinking more carefully about being stewards of technology. Small groups are an excellent place to discuss, discern, and be accountable for how we use gadgets.

I once heard David Kline tell of Protestant tourists sight-seeing in an Amish area. An Amishman is brought on the bus and asked how Amish differ from other Christians. First, he explained similarities: all had DNA, wear clothes (even if in different styles), and like to eat good food.

Then the Amishman asked: “How many of you have a TV?”

Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

“How many of you believe your children would be better off without TV?”

Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

“How many of you, knowing this, will get rid of your TV when you go home?”

No hands were raised.

“That’s the difference between the Amish and others,” the man concluded.

While blog-readers and this blog-writer are not likely to become Amish, there is nevertheless something significant to be learned here.

Arthur Boers (arthurboers.com), the RJ Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, is the author of Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions and The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de SantiagoRead the cover story of Faith Today (Sept/Oct) “Too Busy to be Faithful” here.

 

 

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