My Idolatrous Digital Life: Part Two(Read Part One, Introduction)
The first thing I check in the morning is my phone. Sure, it’s mostly because I have to turn off my alarm, but checking Instagram and Facebook and my email is not, last time I checked, required to turn off my alarm. The last I thing I check before I go to bed? My phone. When my phone fell into water (read: dropped it in the toilet) I didn’t have it for a week. Imagine! Someone so addicted to their phone that it comes with me into the bathroom (yech) being without for a WEEK! I was like an addict, jonesing for my next touchscreen fix, forced to stare at the car in front of me at red lights and have no idea what anyone was eating for lunch. It was unbearable.
Last week, we took took a bunch of high schoolers from our church to the beach for an annual youth summer conference. I have deep love and appreciation for teenagers, so what may sound like a nightmare to you was actually one of the highlights of my summer!
Part of the week-long conference involves a main speaker and the other parts consist of elective classes and, of course, the beach. With hundreds of youths. I was mostly looking forward to the main speaker (and he was awesome) but I was shocked by how much I enjoyed one of the elective classes: ‘Digital Christianity’ taught by a youth pastor from Alabama named Kurt Cooper. What I’m gonna expound on over the next few posts is a brief, totally not-as-winsome recap of his 3 talks. If ever the conference posts his talks online, everyone should take a listen.
"Man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols." While this was said originally by John Calvin, anyone who has ever met or has ever been a teenager knows that statement personally. And while we’ve been perpetuating idols since long before Calvin wrote those words, nothing highlights these little idol factories quite like technology and namely, social media.
Technology is anything created to fulfill God’s creation mandate— that we are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Tech can be anything from the alphabet to medicine to boats to your smart phone. We create things as humans in order to subdue, conquer, and navigate the earth. And because these creations help us fulfill our mandate… They can easily take on monumental roles in our lives.
Tim Challies wrote an incredible book several years ago about technology and its effect on our faith (“The Next Step: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion”) and in it he describes something called Mythic Tech. Mythic tech is tech that is so ingrained in our lives that it seems to have always existed and is impossible to change. When something is mythic, we think the tech itself can’t be wrong. Mythic tech takes on a god-like role— we have to adopt to it. We have to serve it. We can’t live without it. This is the definition of idolatry.
Back to me and my phone addiction. All the ease and convenience of that phone… It has a cost. I am always connected (I’m never alone.) I am constantly reminded of what I’m not doing/capable of/achieving (hello Instagram weddings/babies/dinner parties/lake trips!) I am able, at the push of button, to see how well received I am online (Likes! Favorites! Reblogs!) The cost is that I now worship a device. I worship my online persona. Technology shapes us. My phone has taken on mythic proportions.
Listen, ok. I love my phone. It’s probably not going anywhere. I love Instagram and blogging and seeing my friends and their beautiful babies on Facebook (seriously I love them babes.) I’m not going anywhere. But we need to remember that we were created to hear the words “well done good and faithful servant” from our Lord and not from our screens. Everything has a price— what are you willing to pay?