When was the last time you got yourself stuck scrolling through Tiktok, binge-watching YouTube, or trying to beat the next level in your favourite game; only to be frustrated with the guilt of wasting your time away, and then distracting that guilt away by swiping up, letting the auto-play roll on or clicking ‘try again’? You get stuck in this endless and unbreakable loop. After your preplanned 10 minutes of “relaxing” ends one-hour overtime, you hate yourself and you’ve lost your rigour and peace for the rest of the day.
Let’s be real. Our relationship with technology is a big issue. And we know it. I don’t even need to spill all the stats because we can experience it ourselves in our daily lives. We love it for all the benefits and ease it provides in our complex lives but we hate it at the same time. Too much social media, games and entertainment:
- Causes us to procrastinate and fall behind with our responsibilities,
- Divides our attention, leaving our brains unable to focus longer than 5 minutes,
- Leaves us anxious, unrestful, tired, stressed, depressed, and all in all, less happy,
- Intoxicates our brains with useless or even sinful knowledge,
- Influences us unconsciously with sinful and worldly habits and thoughts,
- And ultimately, suffocates us from living healthy spiritual lives.
Let’s face two big problems with our technology craze.
1. More Information, Less Wisdom
“Our world has more and more information, but less and less wisdom,” says Brett McCracken.1 With so much information-noise constantly bombarding us 24/7 when we wake up, before we sleep, on the bus to school, on the toilet, in between classes, basically at every spare second, we’ve drowned out the voices of wisdom in our lives.
No wonder our lives are a mess. We learn more about dancing cats than we do about Christ. We’re more prone to believe the cultural message of trending influencers than the undying truths of Scripture. It’s not to say that there aren’t any good voices online. There are plenty and listening to them is one of many good uses of the internet.
But the problem is where our focus—our attention—lies. Whose words and stories and messages do we think about over and over in our heads? Is it not that funny reel, or latest Netflix blockbuster, or viral tweet?
Where has meditating God’s Word “day and night” gone in our instantaneous, and never-ending crave for trivial information? Where has “praying without ceasing” gone? God calls us to think over His words, meditate on them, and pray them back in conversation with Him throughout our day—throughout those spare moments. Is it not ironic that we’re meditating on the nonsense of the world “day and night”?
2. Competing Spectacles
What’s ruining us is not only the constant battle for our minds and thoughts, but also our hearts and affection. We were created to behold glorious and wondrous things. That’s why all the eye-grabbing spectacles of the internet world vie for our attention.
In his book, Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke says, “Spectacles compete with God for our attention”.2 Christ crucified should be the most glorious thing we look at. It should be the focus of our heart, attention and affection. William Prynne, a 17th century lawyer once wrote, “Let Christ Jesus be your all in all, your only solace, your only spectacle, and joy on earth”.3
Does that mean we should throw out all our YouTube and TikTok and Netflix and replace it with Scripture reading? Not quite. Becoming monks won’t help us live in this world to be a witness to this world. On the other extreme, are we free to surf the web as liberally as we want in the name of culturising ourselves for the sake of evangelisation? Not quite either.
Treasures of our Hearts
The root question is this, “what is the treasure of our heart?”
Psalm 119:33-40 can illuminate this for us. We hear the psalmist’s true treasure in verses 35 and 40. “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!” Our true treasure and delight should be God and his word. If that’s the focus, then we can say “turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (vv. 36). That doesn’t mean we scrap all our technology away, but we are able to filter what is worth it and worthless, giving our heart only to those things that are ultimately worth it, life in God’s ways.
A real test for our hearts is this. Are we bored with Christ? Does God’s word not stir our hearts, straighten our paths, and cause us to bend our knees in worship and service of Him? Reinke writes:
“In sum, all my concerns are dwarfed by this one: boredom with Christ. In the digital age, monotony with Christ is the chief warning signal to alert us that the spectacles of this world are suffocating our hearts from the supreme Spectacle of the universe.”4
If we are finding ourselves constantly drawn and fixated to our phones, then maybe we’ve got a deeper heart issue. A.W. Tozer warned us decades ago, before our iGen tech-crazy era, about this very issue.
“Many are brainwashed from nine o’clock in the morning or earlier until the last eyelid flutters shut at night because of the power of suggestion. These people are uncommitted. They go through life uncommitted, not sure in which direction they are going.”5
Could this be us, going through life with no idea of where we are going, glued and dependent on the next worthless spectacle to entertain our eye? Do you really want to live the rest of your life zombified in this way?
It’s time to be real. Let’s face our real struggles. Let’s get our souls checked up. Let’s redeem our relationship with technology for our spiritual good and God’s glory!
1 Brett McCracken, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021), 1.
2Tony Reinke, Competing Spectacles: Treasing Christ in the Media Age (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 45.
3William Prynne, Histrio-mastix The players scourge, or, actors tragædie (London, 1633), 133.
4Reinke, Competing Spectacles, 87.
5A.W. Tozer, The Wisdom of God, ed. James L. Snyder (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1986), 147.