Or what about the family you notice across a restaurant? They too are ignoring the opportunity for real-time, real-life conversation because their attention is fixed on those small but remarkably powerful computers they hold in their hands. But what about your lifestyle, attention span, self-esteem, relationships, learning abilities, and peace of mind? Have they not all been dramatically altered by the lure of the games, videos, chat, memes, social media platforms, “speed and convenience,” ad-filled articles, and other elements of the wondrous “world wide web?”
Let’s be honest? Has our immersion in the new technology made us smarter? Are we more sociable? More helpful to one another? More interesting? More in tune with God? Have we become more or less human?
You’ve probably guessed my answers to these questions. And so the primary reason I’m writing this post is to announce that Claire and I have decided to tread much more conscientiously in this “brave new world” that is dominated by Big Tech and the worldview it creates. In fact, this public declaration includes our intentions to return as much as possible to pre-Google, pre-Facebook, pre-smartphone habits – habits that kept us happier, healthier, and more engaging.
Of course, some of our friends would argue that we are already troglodytes. After all, we read books. We listen to music on CDs and even vinyl records. We highly value physical activity and interaction with God’s creation. We host dinner parties, visit with our neighbors, and meet friends for stimulating conversations over coffee. Good grief, I still have a flip phone. And Claire says I wouldn’t even carry that around if gas stations still had phone booths!
Nevertheless, I’ve been noticing for quite awhile that the entangling powers of the web have had way too much effect on us too. The splintering of our powers of mental concentration. Too much dissonance and diversion. Too little worthwhile content. The temptations to reduce our reading, praying, conversation, resting, thinking. But recently there’s been a few things that have intensified our awareness all the more. Those things include my preparations for a couple of recent sermons plus reading 3 very enlightening (and alarming) pieces: Anthony Esolen’s book, The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization; Malcolm Muggeridge’s book, Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim; and especially, an Atlantic Magazine article by Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” I heartily recommend them all.
And so Claire and I have decided to take purposeful steps to start cutting our entanglements from the web, thus freeing ourselves from the web’s theft of our time and its re-shaping of our minds. The first part of the plan? 1) From now on, we will be spending substantially less time messing with Facebook. After all, Facebook is intrusive, shallow, misleading on several fronts, and militantly slanted against conservative ideas and information. So, if you don’t notice us “liking” your Facebook posts anymore, don’t take it personally. It’s simply that we’re not going to be there very often.
2) We are certainly not unplugging ourselves from the news of the day. But we are going to spend less time in trying to keep up with every detail of the culture wars. For, as you know, trying to stay abreast of every outrageous headline (let alone trying to respond to them with prayers and principled protest) is impossible. What kind of balance will we be trying to establish then? Well, I will still check Fox News, Powerline, and Lucianne.com on my computer in the morning. And I will still read the emails I receive from a few conservative news and opinion organizations as well as those coming in from selected Christian ministries.
I will do these things not only for my own awareness, but also because I take seriously the responsibility to be a “watchman on the wall” who desires to help others better deal with the spiritual challenges before us. And that leads me to #3 below.
3) Both as the Director of Vital Signs Ministries and simply as an older Christian who desires to help his fellow believers to accurately know their culture and to avoid being “ignorant of Satan’s devices,” I will continue to provide relevant information and biblical counsel to others. I will, for instance, still post on Vital Signs Blog (cross-posted also on my Twitter and Facebook accounts) the links to a few of the most important articles I come across as well as my own devotional and exhortational posts. And I encourage you to check out those links and posts to help you navigate the troubled waters without feeling swamped by the flood. And make sure that you are on the Vital Signs email list too because we will be sending out every week a Top 5 list of our highest recommended articles.
4) In order to better defend our minds from the distracting, maddening effect of the internet sites which use pop-up ads, distracting sidebars, and other bells and whistles, we are using Brave as our search engine (We're going as Google free as possible.) and we’re right now experimenting to find the most effective ad-blocker devices too.
5) Okay, the changes mentioned before are mainly in the subtraction category. But what are we adding in their place? Well, it’s mostly a matter of rededicating ourselves to tread the familiar paths we’ve long followed. Reading books. Face to face conversations. Prayer. Times of reflection. Service to others. Physical exercise. Appreciation of nature, music, cooking, entertaining, and beauty. Indeed, the best antidotes to the damaging effects of Big Tech on our brains, our time, and our relationships come from commitment to the well-trod paths of relevant, purposeful, and more harmonious involvement with God.
The web’s entanglement is powerful indeed. No doubt about it. But we can, with prayers, a devotion to resist worldliness, and the pursuit of healthier alternatives to the sinister influences of the internet and Big Tech, break those ties that bind. Want to join us?