Last weekend I presented a seminar at my church's weekend away on the topic 'Using technology in your Christian life'. Obviously I'm a big fan-boy of technology, but it's got its dangers. We need to be aware of these to ensure we don't become a victim, and instead use technology for the glory of God. Here are five dangers that were raised in the seminar or that I've thought of.
Someone shared that they had been excluded from social events because they didn't have a Facebook account. That's not very nice. If lack of access to technology excludes people from community, this should raise warning bells. At the very least, there should be more than one way for people to access information - limiting communication about an event to one channel (e.g. Facebook) is exclusive as it assumes that people a) have access to technology (e.g. Facebook), and b) want to use it. We should assume neither.
This example of a South Korean couple starving their child to death while caring for a virtual child is at the extreme end of the spectrum. But the need to be plugged-in, to know what's happening, to read updates, to share updates is a modern and unhelpful phenomenon that has the Center for Internet Addiction. If only we felt the same eagerness to read God's word and pursue our relationship with Him. On a more light-hearted note, wondering if you're addicted to Twitter? Try this fun quiz. Apparently I'm 45% addicted to Twitter. It's a fine line between engagement and addiction.
Some things are best communicated face-to-face, or at least over the phone. Technology allows us to be lazy and laziness is never good. For example, sending your Bible study leader a text message to let them know that you won't be coming tonight. That's lazy - if you are not going to be there, it's courteous to pick up the phone and apologise and explain. It's easier to send a text, but for the benefit of your leader who has spent hours preparing and who is responsible for caring for you, it's not a good option.
I'm not sure if our opportunities to sin have increased with technology, or if we're simply more aware of them. But take for example Facebook - it can prompt jealousy and envy (I wish I had what she has), pride (posting status updates to promote ourselves), lust (looking at unhelpful photos of people), gossip (sharing news on Facebook, or that we heard on Facebook) about others. Sure, Facebook didn't invent jealousy, envy, pride, lust and gossip - but it sure makes these sins easy to fall into! And of course one of the great temptations of our day is - there's a reason why one of the most visited articles each day on this site is a list of tools for online accountability.
Nielsen recently revealed the extent of time spent on Facebook, and how this is increasing. On this site I shared how Australians spend 29% of all time online, on Facebook. I know I seem to be picking on Facebook - I'm not, it just provides lots of good examples! Technology can make us more efficient and productive, but it can also just help us to waste time. And we waste a lot. When the Master returns, I want to be busy doing his business, not procrastinating on Facebook.