Wisdom with Digital Distractions
by Mark Roberts
The Internet and all that goes with it used to live on a desktop or laptop computer. Now we carry it in the palm of our hands with a smart phone or tablet. Apps and browsers connect us to the entire world at the speed of light. Yet more and more people are beginning to think and re-think about how they are affected by the digital devices we carry (and love). Of course, the Bible doesn’t have an explicit “Thou shalt not have an iPhone” passage. Does that mean we get one and use it without thought? What is needed in situations where there is not a clear “thus saith the Lord” is wisdom. How can I get the good from digital devices without them causing me more problems than they are worth? Let’s go get some wisdom from the Bible’s books of wisdom, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
First, recognize part of our problem is that we are not intentional with our devices. Someone says “Have you got this app?” and we load it. “Are you on this social network? Everyone is; it’s so cool!” and we join it. But everything we add to our phone (and use) puts additional pressure and time loads on our lives. If I’m not on Instagram and then I join, where will the time come from that I surf and look at Instagram? I don’t get more minutes added to my day when I add an app. So where will the time to use that app come from? Did I intentionally choose “I will do less of this because I want to do this?” No. I just download it to my device and end up with a life that is cramped and compressed. When I add an app, particularly a social media app, I need to ask “What will I give up to make room for this? What will be crowded out by doing this new thing?” More often than not, it could be my spiritual disciplines that suffer. That’s why I need to be intentional. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl 3:1).
Secondly, part of the trouble with social media is that it can feed arrogance. A lot of social media is about me. It’s me showing my great vacation. It’s me talking about me and my life. It’s me sharing my opinion on everything. This news story. This action by a celebrity. This political contest. Apparently the world is waiting to hear what I think about all this and more and I need to weigh in! I will set people straight – just wait till they read my Facebook post on today’s hot topic! Wait till they see the meme I post ridiculing those I disagree with!
This is madness. This is pride gone to seed and bearing a bitter harvest. Making something about me is not wise. Always talking about me isn’t good for me. As for thinking that my opinion matters on the recent scandal or news story … that’s just as foolish. How do we imagine that we know enough to comment because we saw something on the Internet? Do we think we really have all the facts? Do we really know the background and context of complicated situations and circumstances? Could we be led astray by fake news? Without any regard for these cautions I can dive right in and tell the world what is what, but… “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov 11:2).
Thirdly, we need to realize that the “instant” isn’t always wise. The Internet is immediate, isn’t it? I can share my thoughts, my photos, my opinions, my ideas now. So when I’m angry I can just vent on the spot. When I’m upset I can tell the world how unhappy I am. When I’m sure I know the problem (and its solution) I can spout my counsel to everyone. All of this can be done without much thought, much consideration, or much time spent carefully considering if what I’m saying needs to be said, is helpful, kind or loving. I just type it out and press SEND or POST. Bang. Instantly I’ve put it out there. But there’s not much wisdom in that, is there? “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 12:18).
I don’t believe we have to smash our phones or go back to old fashioned flip phones with no Internet access. However, I do believe we should bring wisdom to every part of our lives, and that includes the device in your pocket! Be wise in your use of technology. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Prov 10:19)