Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped. This month we are taking a hard look at our relationships with technology. I am pretty sure I just heard a collective groan from all of you as you read this month’s focus! Trust me, it's an uncomfortable topic for me too. But I think it’s something we desperately need to address.
Let me be the first to admit—I have an unhealthy relationship with technology. I might even go so far as to say that I am addicted to my phone. But humbly admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery and freedom. Last month I spent 30 days breaking up with my phone through Catherine Price’s book, How to Break Up With Your Phone. It was a valuable exercise that brought additional clarity, renewed energy, and a decrease in stress. I was more present in my relationships and felt less tethered to my phone. I took walks around the block without my phone in my pocket. I even went on a date with my husband and left my phone at home! Don’t get me wrong, I still feel the pull. I still get sucked back in. I still feel my dependence. But now I am aware of the impact technology has on my cognitive ability; my spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being; and my personal relationships, and I am armed with some very practical tools to help me have a healthier relationship with it.
In his book, Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung writes, “The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present . . . We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance—and choose wisely.” We reach for technology in our desire to be like God—always present, always informed, and always capable. It’s quite possible that the information age we live in today is akin to Eve’s eating of the fruit of the tree. We reach for the fruit again and again—seeing it as a delight to the eyes and desirable for making one wise (Genesis 3:6). And, like Eve, we’ve gained far more than we bargained for—we are more fragile, more frustrated, and more anxious. We are less content and less connected to the real people around us. And we are more aware of what’s going on in another country than we are aware of what’s going on in our neighbor’s life across the street. Make no mistake—this IS a discipleship issue and we need God’s grace and wisdom to grow in this area.
As with all of our newsletters, we have provided a few resources to read or listen to, some questions for reflection, and some believable next steps you can take to grow in this area.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Book: How To Break Up With Your Phone
by: Catherine Price
This book is quick and easy, but a jarring read. Contrary to the title, Price does not take a teetotaler approach to technology. She just wants to help you set the terms of your relationship with your phone. This book is highly practical and worth the read. But do yourself a favor—don’t just read it. Follow her 30-day plan and see if it kills you.
“While research on these devices is in its early stages, what is known so far suggests that spending extended time on them has the power to change both the structure and the function of our brains—including our ability to form new memories, think deeply, focus, and absorb and remember what we read. Multiple studies have associated the heavy use of smartphones (especially when used for social media) with negative effects on neuroticism, self-esteem, impulsivity, empathy, self-identity, and self-image, as well as with sleep problems, anxiety, stress, and depression.”
by: Tony Reinke
Reinke’s book looks at twelve specific ways your phone is changing you and aims to help us identify how to best use our smartphones for the flourishing of life. He doesn’t condemn technology or prescribe becoming a technophobe, but he also doesn’t want us to remain blissfully unaware of the very real ramifications of technology on our daily lives.
“We are always busy, but always distracted—diabolically lured away from what is truly essential and truly gratifying. Led by our unchecked digital appetites, we manage to transgress both commands that promise to bring focus to our lives. We fail to enjoy God. We fail to love our neighbor.”
Book: The Tech-Wise Family
by: Andy Crouch
In this book, Crouch drives us to answer consider who we want to be as a family and how our use of a particular technology moves us closer or farther from that goal.
“Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance, like celebrities, whom we will never meet.”
Podcast:Connected, but alone?
by: Sherry Turkle
Science is still studying the impact of technology on our lives, but early indicators show that we are more connected than ever before and, yet, ironically more alone, less empathetic, and more anxious. We are losing our ability to connect with one another. In this TED talk, Turkle cautions us that technology is so psychologically powerful that it not only changes what we do, it changes who we are!
“Human relationships are rich and they're messy and they're demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves. And over time, we seem to forget this, or we seem to stop caring.”
“We expect more from technology and less from each other . . . And I believe it's because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We're lonely, but we're afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control.”
by: Simon Sinek
In this short four-minute video, Simon Sinek highlights the role dopamine plays in our relationship with our phones, how they are designed to keep us perpetually addicted and their impact on our relationships.
“Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble. In other words, it is highly, highly addictive.”
by: Culture Matters Podcast with Andy Crouch
This podcast with author Andy Crouch discusses how technology, masked as autonomy, is dehumanizing us.
“Our modern world was built on a picture of flourishing that really is about autonomy, its an ability to get things done without depending on other people or God . . . The great feeling of being in the modern world is that God is not really all that relevant to my daily life . . . Let’s find a way to prosper without dependence on one another and God. I think that maybe isn’t neutral or good. I think that may be the big wrong turn in the modern world.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- Take this Smartphone Compulsion Test. What did you score? Do your results surprise you or does it just affirm what you already instinctively knew? Discuss your results with someone in your biblical community.
- What impact (positive or negative) does your technology use have on the following areas of your life:
- Your relationship with God
- Time spent in the Scriptures
- Your primary relationships (spouse, children, friends, co-workers, neighbors)
- Your mental and emotional well-being
- Your productivity at work and at home
- Have you ever left your phone at home or unplugged from social media for an extended period of time? If so, how did it feel to do so? What benefits did you gain from unplugging?
- Ask those closest to you the following questions:
- When we are together, do you feel like you have my full attention?
- How would you describe my relationship with my phone?
- The next time you reach for your phone, ask yourself what it is you are looking for. What are you feeling when you reach for it? Are you feeling lonely, afraid, bored, or sad? Are you looking to your phone to fill you or fix you or meet a need? What are some other things you could do in place of picking up your phone to Google, text or scroll social media?
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?
Below are some next possible steps to take toward a healthy relationship with technology:
- Pick one of the books listed in the "Read" section above, and commit to reading it this month. Share with someone in your biblical community for accountability.
- Many of us feel that we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. But the average person spends over four hours per day on their phones. Do you know how much time per day you are actually spending on your phone? It is likely far more than you would imagine. Take a look within your phone’s general settings for your usage information or download an app that will track your time for you. Then consider the following:
1. What do you have to show for that time?
2. What do you enjoy doing that you have not done in a while?
3. If you were to reallocate those hours spent on your phone, what else could you have spent that time on?
It is important to note that this is not an exercise to induce shame or beat yourself up but to help you gain a real picture of time lost and a hopeful vision for what could be.
- Try this 7-Day Challenge from Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone.
- Unless you are in a profession where you are on-call, adopt a “no phones at the dinner table” policy. Practice engaging in real-time, face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation with others.
- Set specific times you allow yourself to check social media—maybe once in the morning and once at night after dinner.
- Get outdoors—without your phone. Take a walk around the block with a neighbor, friend or member of your family. Go to the lake or the mountains. Sit outside on your porch and just watch the birds or watch your neighbors working or playing in their yards. Observe, even participate, in the life happening around you.
- Don’t phub those you love. Lead the way amongst peers by choosing to not use your phone while with family or friends. This is a tangible way for others to feel acknowledged and loved while helping you disconnect from technology.
- Practice solitude. Start by setting a timer for five minutes or fifteen minutes. Just be. Sit through the discomfort. Wrestle with the temptation to distract yourself. Learn to be present in the moment. See how God begins to meet you in this place and what he begins to reveal to you about yourself-about the world around you. Don’t run from it, learn from it.
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.