Ezer Equipped | Redefining Our Relationship With Technology
Welcome to the May 2021 edition of Ezer Equipped!
Spring has sprung and it is beautiful! I am loving the longer days, the sunshine, and the signs of new life everywhere. For some people, spring brings with it the phenomenon called spring cleaning. It’s a time to reset, spruce up, and clean out all the junk that’s collected over the past year. I’m not a huge spring-cleaning person, but whenever I clean out a closet or reorganize my out-of-control bookshelves, I get this weird sensation of relief. It’s almost like being able to take a deep breath for the first time in a long time.
Clutter closes in on me. The more cluttered my surroundings, the more shallow my breathing becomes—like the junk slowly absorbs all the oxygen in the room. And I don’t realize how much it’s affecting me until after the fact. Technology is a little bit like that. It encroaches slowly over time, creeping into all the corners and crevices of our hearts and minds, and we don’t often realize the impact it’s having on us until the air has become thin and our breathing labored.
When we think of spring cleaning, we don’t often think about our phones. While technology is a gift that provides us amazing opportunities and resources, it also has a shadow side, and our relationship with it can become toxic. It’s so integrated into our lives that it’s almost impossible to find spaces where you can breathe freely, uninterrupted by the pings, rings, and buzzes. It’s a terribly co-dependent relationship—it clamors for our undivided attention and affection, and we feed off the false sense of affirmation and connection it offers but cannot truly provide.
Social technologies like Instagram, Facebook, and texting can even become a socially acceptable, relational form of pornography. We consume it in isolation, getting an illusion of relationship with others without any of the responsibility that comes with real relationships. It’s a way we bleed off energy rather than channeling it toward those for whom we are responsible. We can know what’s going on in another person’s life, feel connected to them, and yet not have to invest any real time or energy in them. We don’t have to be vulnerable or risk being hurt. We don’t have to see the impact our words or actions have on others. We don’t have to do the hard work of developing and sustaining relationships, but we also don’t get to experience the benefits of the sanctifying work that can only come through proximity to others.
Because technology demands more and more of us while offering less and less, it’s no wonder we are more lonely and isolated and anxious than ever. Perhaps it’s time to do a little technology spring-cleaning. This month, we want to take some time to survey our surroundings and reestablish some healthy boundaries with technology so that we can breathe more freely and channel our time, energy, and affections toward those whom God has placed in our lives.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Scripture doesn’t have a lot to say about technology or our use of it. But it does have a lot to say about how we use our time, where we focus our energy, what we feed our minds, and how we use our words. Scripture is formational—it shapes not only our hearts, but also directs our actions.
Take some time to read these two passages from the Old Testament. As you read them, reflect on the following questions:
- What imagery do the writers use to capture the emptiness of turning to lesser things instead of God?
- What do these passages say are the end result of our search for life in other things?
It is so easy for us to reach for something other than God, even though it leaves us thirsty and unsatisfied.
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Isaiah describes two craftsmen who spend their energy crafting idols that cannot save them—never realizing the futility and emptiness of their efforts.
“The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, ‘Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?’”
Now, take some time to read these two passages from the New Testament. As you read them, reflect on the following questions:
- What are the specific instructions given? What empowers us to live in this way?
- How would the way I engage with technology and social media change if I applied these verses?
This passage reminds us that our identity in Christ should define how we live in relationship with God and one another.
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
This passage shows how our new nature in Christ compels us to live differently from the world, which includes how we engage the world through technology.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”
Chrystie Cole, Cultivate
Technology has embedded itself deep in our lives and the constant connectivity takes a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. This talk from our Cultivate women’s leadership conference calls us to establish some limits on our technology use so that we can linger at Jesus’ feet.
“We are crowding out all margin for fellowship and communion with Jesus . . . and we are suffering for it. We are atrophying spiritually. We are turning inward and growing more and more anxious.”
Daily Grace Podcast
This podcast challenges us to think clearly about the content we consume and create. It offers both a diagnosis of what may be going on in our hearts as well as practical tips to change the way we interact with social media.
“Our inability to be still, to be detached from our phones, from social media just says so much about the condition of our hearts.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
This past year has probably changed the way you interact with technology. Some of these changes are beneficial. Some are not. How has your use of technology changed this year? What fruit (good or bad) has it produced in you?
Scroll through your social media feeds and ask yourself the following questions:
What do my posts, comments, likes, shares, or pictures communicate about what I value? Can you identify specific motivations behind what you post or how you comment?
Who am I following and how are they influencing me? What type of influencers are you drawn to (health, food, parenting, politics, conspiracy theories, travel, etc.)?
Look at the time app on your phone. How many hours a day/week/month are you on your phone? Are there specific platforms that you engage with more than others?
It is tempting to think that making certain “rules” for ourselves can change our behavior. Rules and guardrails are helpful, but we must also dig a little deeper. As you interact with your phone, pay attention to:
Patterns that may give you clues as to why and when you use your phone:
- Do you use research to soothe yourself when you are feeling anxious?
- Are you more tempted to scroll when you are tired, lonely, and disconnected from others?
- Do you use it as a way of distracting yourself from big emotions or deep questions?
Patterns that give you clues as to what you are really looking for. What do you gain from time on your phone?
- Is it approval and affirmation from others?
- Is it proving a point or being right?
- Is it filling a void by finding something new to purchase?
- Is it an attempt to be relevant?
Our use of technology has warped our ability to concentrate, feel deeply, think critically, and connect with others in a meaningful way. Whether we realize it or not, it is impacting us. Make three columns on a piece of paper with the following headings:
- Relationship with Myself
- Relationship with Others
- Relationship with God
Now, list ways your technology use is impacting each of these areas.
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
In the Connect section, we asked lots of questions to help you evaluate your engagement with technology. Now, it’s time to get to work and do some spring cleaning on your phone!
- Disable notifications: This allows you to control when you consume information and content. This is especially important if you have an Apple watch.
- Change your screen: Setting your screen to black and white mode changes the way your brain engages, which can help reduce overall screen time.
- Watch your time: Set time limits on your phone for certain platforms, and establish boundaries for when you will be on your phone.
- Reduce clutter:
- Remove apps you are not using.
- Consider having social media apps like FB and IG only on your computer and not your phone in order to reduce the number of interactions.
- Remove the number of influencers you are following. Curate your feed so that it serves you. Choose influencers that equip you, educate you, challenge you, and ground you in truth—and make you laugh!
- Remove apps you are not using.
- Replace your news source: The news sources you follow play on your emotions and fragility—creating tension, anxiety, and even outright fear. And so much of the divisiveness in our country is a result of following news sources that only validate one viewpoint and lived experience. While no news source is completely unbiased, seeking out a source that is less inflammatory and one-sided can ease our anxiety and sense of division. These two sites aim to present the news from a more unbiased point of view, while also highlighting media bias:
The rate at which we consume technology, and the reasons we reach for it are not unique to this time period we are living in. The human heart has always been bent toward restlessness and been tempted to reject what God offers in search of lesser things. When our hearts are hungry, we are willing to fill ourselves with anything that satisfies—even if it’s temporary. Looking to social media to fill what is empty in us is like drinking water from a broken cistern.
- What steps do you need to take to feast on the truth and promises of Scripture so that your heart and mind can be captivated by something bigger than what social media is offering you?
- What steps do you need to take to establish real relationships and deep friendships?