Using Technology is the New Smoking

An observant writer noted that some of the same habits that we see in those addicted to nicotine we see in people today with technology.  Alexia Tsotsis writes:

You’re at an outing or a dinner table with friends but itching to check your email or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Google+ …or what ever digital hit of serotonin you prefer. Have you ever “gone to the bathroom” in order to check email or come up with a socially appropriate excuse to pull out your smartphone just so you can check your @ replies on Twitter?

…A new British study released today backs up what we otherwise know intuitively, that Internet usage is increasingly becoming an addiction. Out of 1000 people surveyed after being cut off from the Internet for 24 hours, 53% reported feeling “upset” about being deprived of online access and 40% said that they felt lonely after not being able to connect to the Internet. Participants described the digital detox akin to quitting drinking or smoking… This British survey comes after a University of Maryland study in April that came to pretty much the same conclusion…

Have you ever tried to go on a technology fast for twenty-four hours?  My wife and I did, and at times I was longing to open up my computer or turn on my cell phone.  Once the withdrawal symptoms passed, my wife and I were able to spend time together in a way that we had not done so in a long time.  The result was a pleasant day without interruptions, without distractions, and full of quality conversations and time together.  A technology fast is well worth the withdrawal symptoms.

Author and blogger Tim Challies (who admits to being a huge fan of technology) has done some deep thinking on the topic of technology and how it has effected how we interact with the world around us, as well as how it has had an impact on the Christian faith… for good and for ill.  His book, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion is well thought through and keeps an objective balance; staying away from the “technology is super good” or “technology is super bad” extremes that people tend to swing towards.  As an example, here is a small excerpt from his section on the morality of technology:

Thinking about technology in a distinctly Christian way means that we consider these three ideas:

1. Technology is a good, God-given gift.  Created in God’s image, we have a mandate and a desire to create technology.  Technology is the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes.

2.  Like everything else in creation, technology is subject to the curse.  Though intended as a means of honoring God, our technologies often become idols and compound our sinful rebellion against our Creator.

3.  It is the human application of technology that helps us determine if it is being used to honor God or further human sin.  Discerning the intended use of a technology, examining our own use of it, and reflecting on these purposes in light of Scripture disciplines our technological discernment (p. 25). 

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