Wednesday, June 3, 2021
Americans recently passed a new technological milestone: we now spend more time on devices than we do sleeping – as well as working, reading, caring for others, or any other activity. According to a recent study conducted by emarketer.com, the average American spends around eight hours per day with digital media, as well as over five hours a day on traditional media (such as print, TV, and radio). While many people doubtless use digital devices while simultaneously watching TV or listening to the radio, overall time spent on media continues to grow significantly, and is expected to continue to do so, even after the end of the pandemic.
Of course, it is no surprise to hear there has been an increase in internet usage during the pandemic (even if we might be taken aback by the size of the growth); there are extraordinary goods that result from our technological tools, which is largely why we use them more and more.
But even as our technologies have enabled us to continue to work, socialize, teach, go to school, and worship in the midst of an isolating pandemic and quarantines, we’ve all become more aware of how different online interactions are from embodied ones, the different ways in which they shape our perceptions and reactions, and the gulf between the virtual and actual. Our tools have shaped our thoughts, our work, our schooling, and our days. And since, in the words of author Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” it is not a stretch to say that our lives are increasingly shaped by and spent in virtual entertainment. As such, stewarding our lives requires stewardship of our time and our tools.
So what to do? How do we learn to use the incredible technological tools at our disposal wisely and intentionally, rather than allowing them to run our lives? Andy Crouch, the author of The Tech-Wise Family, offered helpful guidance:
Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance, like celebrities, whom we will never meet.
Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.
Technology is in its proper place when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit. It’s out of its proper place when it promises to help us escape the limits and vulnerabilities of those bodies altogether.
Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are responsible for stewarding. It’s out of its proper place when it keeps us from engaging the wild and wonderful natural world with all of our senses…
Technology is in its proper place when we use it with intention and care. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own.
On June 11th, we’ll talk with Andy and his daughter Amy Crouch, who together wrote My Tech-Wise Life, on the ways we can more accurately discern the power and place of technology in our own homes and lives, and the steps we can take to channel the wonderful power and potential of our technological tools wisely and well. In it they explore how to navigate the possibilities and pitfalls of technology and its influence in one’s life. Our devices tempt us to “avoid honest conversations, compare ourselves with others, and filter our reality. Sometimes, it feels like our devices have a lot more control over us than we have over them.” But the Crouches believe it does not have to be that way. There is a wise path we can walk with our technology, a different and better way to imagine our lives together. We hope you will join us to discuss this paradigm for using technology to flourish!
As we navigate these uncertain times together, we recommend these Readings
as both an encouragement and catalyst for reflection.