Are we trapped by technology?
8:00 a.m. – Check e-mail
8:06 – Start responding to e-mails
8:11 – Receive a text message
8:15 – Send a text message
8:19 – Continue responding to e-mails (because it takes me four minutes to text one sentence)
8:21 – Phone rings
8:22 – Check my Facebook while talking on phone
8:48 – Realize that I’ve been on Facebook for 30 minutes, but the phone call ended at 8:28
8:57 – Finish responding to e-mails, but have four new ones in inbox
9:06 – Receive instant message #1
9:29 – Send instant message #78 – “Have a great day!”
9:30 – Start reading my Bible
9:32 – Text message
9:33 – Phone call
9:40 – Read second verse
9:45 – “Praying”
10:00 – First face-to-face conversation of the day
They say that technological innovations help us to better stay in touch. They say that these are tools to make communication better, to make us better connected. They say these things make us more efficient people.
E-mail. Cell phones. Text messaging. IM. Facebook. Classmates.com. Twitter (who really knows what a “tweet” is). Each of these innovations is designed to help us be connected with more people in ways we never have before. The slogan for LinkedIn, a social networking site designed for professionals, is “relationships matter.”
Yet for many of us, these technologies become the great paradox. Through them we become reacquainted with long lost friends or stay better connected with friends and family around the world. All the while, we become more distant in relationships with friends and family at home. Though we are more efficient in communication, in work and in accomplishing tasks thanks to these technologies, they somehow manage to suck all the time out of our day, leaving us with the 5 p.m. question: “What did I really accomplish today?”
For my own life, this great paradox begs the question: Do these technologies serve to help me, or do I serve them?
(I just had to take a break—a friend just uploaded her wedding pictures.)
French historian and theologian Jacques Ellul recognizes our age’s reliance on technology. “Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity,” he says. We live in an age where we feel enslaved to technology, whether we like it or not.
So what do we do about this?
In the creation narrative in Genesis, it is revealed to us that two of God’s primary values are work and rest. For six days God worked, and on the Sabbath God rested. God calls us to do the same. We work, and we rest. Both are necessary for wholeness.
The digest version of our Confession of Faith (Article 16) says it well: “We believe God’s act of creation provides the model for work and rest. In work, we use our abilities to glorify God and serve others. In rest, we express thanks for God’s provision and trust in God’s sustaining grace.”
In work and in rest, we trust in God. In our lives, we seem to trust much more in technology for both work and rest. But technology is a mirage in our disjointed, interruption-filled lives. Technology neither provides us with what we need to fulfill God’s call to work nor will it adequately bring us rest. Instead, technology serves as a subtle idol so often keeping us from the very reason for our work and our rest—God.
(Break time—new e-mail from the Chocolate of the Month Club!)
Based on God’s set work-rest pattern, it seems only logical that the primary way to save our selves from slavery to technology is Sabbath. Rest. When we truly take one day each week for rest, we also take a break from technology. What if one day per week we didn’t check our e-mail, turned off our cell phones and signed off of Facebook? And no tweets either. What if we took this time for the relationships around us, with our family, our neighbors, our friends and extended family close to home? What if we took this time to focus on the one relationship that matters most to make us better at work and relationships—our relationship with God?
Jacques Ellul also says this: “Prayer holds together the shattered fragments of the creation. It makes history possible.”
May we, this month, allow Sabbath rest to pull together the shattered fragments of our own lives. May we truly rest in God, which will create in us the ability to be better servants of what God has created us to be.