Thumbs swipe across an oily plate of glass. Pupils fixed on a blur of changing colors. Sans serif font writes captions underneath aesthetic coffee mugs, curly lettering, and faces crinkled with laughter at the beach.
By the forty-third swipe, your brain doesn’t even bother to see what posts are saying. All you see is boredom. All you feel is your head thudding with the pound of pointlessness. Your body is restless from doing absolutely nothing. But you’re stuck there. You’re glued to the screen.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Twenty-first century teenagers, this is our life. Or, rather, this is the addiction that steals it. Do we even remember what it’s like to just go outside and sit on the front porch and breathe in crisp, plant-infused air?
I sure don’t.
We have a problem. We are obsessed with our screens, hiding behind them whenever boredom or loneliness or discomfort creep in, and yet these are the very feelings our phones provoke within us. We look to technology to free us when in reality, this technology is our trap. So how can we escape this web?
1: Recognize the true enemy
Hold up. Is this really another lecture about social media addiction? Aren’t there enough conspiracy theories about phones taking over the world? Might that be just a little overdramatic?
Phones cannot take over the world. They are inanimate objects, with no real brain or soul. But Satan has claimed rule over this earth–and he will use every product of human manufacturing he can to enforce his agenda over us.
This, my friends, is the problem–not an innate heinous nature programmed into our devices, but our own sin nature corrupting a creation with so much potential, reprogramming useful tools as weapons for our destruction.The problem isn't an innate heinous nature programmed into our devices, but our own sin nature corrupting a creation with so much potential, reprogramming useful tools as weapons for our destruction Click To Tweet
Every time you and I turn on our phones, our ipads, and our laptops, we click into the digital face of a spiritual war. And because of our own faulty will, we on our own will lose this war. But there is hope.
You don’t have to be trapped by your devices.
If you are sealed with the Spirit of God living inside of you, you are a new being with Christ’s power inside of you. This Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, can and will transform our souls, withered and cowardly though they be, to face reality head on, not to run from it. With his help, we can reign in the pull of technology over us and use them as the good tools they ought to be.
2: Know Your Weak Points
In order to conquer the enemy, you must identify its forces. What dangers does technology pose for you? How does your phone or computer threaten your mental and spiritual health?
We each lose our footing at different steps, so you need to examine your own habits to root out the trouble areas. If you’re a gamer, video games may consume too much of your time. Some might also expose you to more violence than you can reasonably process. Likewise, Instagram may slap you with comparison, or Amazon with discontentment. Unwise music choices can enforce depression in those who already struggle. When we feel alone, an app with photoshopped versions of reality tells us we can never measure up.
It’s not that apps or websites create evil within us, but rather, they feed upon those points of our sin nature which surface most often. Who do we place our focus on? To whom do we compare ourselves?
When we don’t exercise caution, social media jerks our focus off of Christ. We scrutinize ourselves and our neighbors, forgetting who God created us to be. Behind every camera, there’s a sinner in need of grace. Too often, we forget how equally destitute every man or woman stands before the holy God.
The antidote to technology’s false witness, then, is to carry the truth deeply set in our souls. Christ, the one who himself is “the way, the truth, and the life,” has shone light into the darkness of our hearts (John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 4:6). He gave us his Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:3). Let’s pray for discernment of our weaknesses and for the strength to overcome them. Let’s be full of the gospel.
3: Write Purpose Statements
On the practical level, technology abuse breaks down under the weight of intentionality.
Write a purpose statement. For every app you download, ask yourself what good thing you can put into or get out of it. This especially applies to social media.
Christians can and often should use social media for the sake of the gospel. We can advocate for truth, beauty, and wholesome entertainment. Yet in every post, in every DM, in every conversation, there should be an element of worship or witness. It doesn’t have to be explicit, but, at the least, we can be outstandingly grateful. Encouraging. Kind.In every post, in every DM, in every conversation, there should be an element of worship or witness. Click To Tweet
Through technology, we have nearly infinite opportunities for creativity and connection. As a writer, I spend a lot of time on my computer, hopping between Google Docs and the Young Writer’s Workshop’s online community. Balance this with a social media presence, and you get one very active tech-user.
So there are dangers in investing hours upon hours into my writing-world, a world that exists only underneath screens. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine stepping away from this world entirely. I couldn’t imagine wanting to, or thinking I ought to. Writing is my calling, and screens are a crucial tool in every step of the modern writing process.
Boredom-induced scrolling does not bring glory to God, but I believe and pray my writing does. One seeks to satisfy temporary desires for entertainment, the other seeks to serve and bless readers with art infused by truth. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Exercising God’s Dominion Over Our Phones
There are countless ways to use technology for good: building relationships with people from across the globe, learning and sharing new skills, appreciating somebody else’s art, reflecting on God’s Word, providing easily accessible resources for churches, or answering questions about nearly anything.
We need to be intentional. Smartphone addiction traps an unbelievable number of teenagers and adults in our modern world. As Christians, we have been called to exercise dominion over the earth, not to be ruled by its products.
If we use technology callously, we will sacrifice time, health, and intimacy with God for the sake of a temporal fad. But if we use these tools constructively, together, we will tap into immense potential for the sake of God’s kingdom.