I wake up to my phone alarm every morning. Cuisinart makes my coffee. Toyota drives me to work. Facebook counts my friends and AT&T raises the bar on my friendships. Apple pushes me through my workout and takes down my notes in class. Finally, when my work is finished and the next day’s outfit has been laid out on my dresser, I edit through the events of my day and flip the light switch to call it a night.
Modern technology makes life incredibly convenient. When we take the time to consider how many of our daily habits depend on industry and electronics, we will greatly appreciate them. Many tasks that we now find to be crucial have been made possible through technology.
The technological resources that have been made available to us in the twenty-first century have had a significant impact on societal development. Industries and corporations have become increasingly aware of our wants and needs and have worked hard to accommodate for them. The fact that we have advanced technology at our finger tips allows society to continue expanding.
In recent decades, there has been widespread debate regarding our generation’s dependency on modern technology. Successfully arguing that technology itself is harmful to our generation would be extremely difficult, as technology has undeniably had its benefits. Where would we be without computers, cell phones, and vehicles? These tools have certainly made life easier in many ways and allowed our society to advance. Even the connectedness that we gain through social mediums such as Facebook, Skype, and Twitter can be a positive effect of technology; through this, we are easily enabled to maintain or develop relationships in places where we otherwise would not. Whether social media is being used to keep in touch with a long distance friend or to become familiar with people of unfamiliar backgrounds, individuals can most certainly benefit from the relational conveniences for which technology allows.
In a culture where unnecessary gadgets and the newest household appliances inevitably rise to the top of the upper-middle class shopping list, many of us find ourselves accruing possessions for the mere sake of it.
After acknowledging the benefits of modern technology, we must equally acknowledge and explore the concerns that arise out of our dependency on it. The main problem becomes that this dependency can both distort our priorities and lessen the quality of our relationships. It does these things by nurturing a mentality of excess and by masking our need for interpersonal relationships.
Living in the convenience of modern technology nurtures a mentality of excess. In a culture where unnecessary gadgets and the newest household appliances rise to the top of the upper-middle class shopping list, many of us accrue possessions for the mere sake of it. We have more than we need but we must have more. This mentality is often subconscious, sneaking into our minds when we are making even the smallest of decisions. Do I really need that electronic wine bottle opener? What about the $8 strawberry stem remover? Depending on how much of an impulsive buyer I am, I may or may not be tempted by such purchases. Regardless, the question of whether or not these items are necessities is painfully apparent—that is, when we are not wandering around Brookstone or Williams-Sonoma.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul speaks to the idea of moderation in wealth. He writes “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Here, Paul reminds Timothy to maintain an eternal perspective in regard to wealth by remembering to store our treasures in heaven. At times, technology can complicate this calling by offering us luxurious conveniences such as fancy cars or the latest Apple product. Making use of technology is healthy; technological developments have occurred and ignoring these advancements would be foolish. Even so, problems arise when this mentality of excess prevails over our calling as believers to be generous and live moderately.
The diminishing quality of interpersonal relationships is another concern that arises out of modern technology. Varied social mediums that have been popularized in the past decade allow us to develop and maintain relationships with people without being physically present with them. The rise of these mediums has enabled closeness between people who are physically distant and distance between people who are physically close. While these mediums can be a wonderful convenience for long-distance relationships and friendships, they can also lessen the quality of immediately present relationships by assuming less of a need for them. Online relationships require less effort, but they also allow people to create unrealistic but appealing personas for themselves. Over the past several decades, we have experienced the shift from phone calls to text messages, dinner dates to Skype dates, photo albums to Instagram. Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It’s possible that we have watched the intimacy of physical presence be undermined by these varied social mediums. Reclaiming this intimacy would necessitate an increase in the time and effort that we invest in relationships. By moderating our use of social media, we can create a balance between meaningfully maintaining distant relationships and actively investing in the people with whom are immediately present.
Social media and modern technology have helped me remain connected with loved ones and continue nurturing precious relationships in my life. Many of my closest friends live far away from me, and without cell phones and the Internet, it would be exponentially more difficult to remain invested in each other’s lives. Even so, these mediums are not enough to maintain meaningful relationships. By making an effort to visit a friend who is far away, we express appreciation for the person and allow the relationship to grow stronger. There are also moments in which these tools can cause distractions from things like academics or from people who are physically present in one’s life. Technological advances will always create opportunities for distraction. Distraction from work, from family and friends, and even from the priorities that we hold to as believers. In light of this, our mission must be to learn how to balance a healthy use of modern convenience with a commitment to the fellowship, selflessness and generosity of Christ that we are called to reflect.