I already nearly lost one close friend to texting and driving. I don't want to spend the next several years attending funerals of younger friends. Is the ability to text really worth your life?
No one knows the full extent of damage the gaming industry is causing to the psyches of younger Americans, but movies like this one, starring Gerard Butler, show how sick the industry is.
They say you become what you look at. Based on what we're looking at, what are we becoming?
The monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein may be strangely prophetic.
What are we becoming?
What are our children becoming? This is a sad, lonely picture.
Get ready for...
Is This Thing We're So Proud Of Destroying Us?
For the past couple of weeks, the eyes of most Americans, and the world, have been glued to their screens watching the world's greatest athletes perform wonders in the snowy Canadian countryside. And rightly so. But is this thing we're so proud of destroying us? I'm not talking about the Winter Olympics, which have been inspiring. I'm referring to the technology that is bringing those games into our homes, cars, offices, and basically every place we now occupy. We are a technology-saturated, technology-obsessed society, with new devices being introduced almost faster than consumers can absorb them. Is all this technology destroying us?
Before you poo poo that idea, let me offer some examples.
Example #1: A good friend of mine was recently driving 70 mph, ran off the highway, hit a parked car, rolled twice and was almost killed because he was using his iPhone when he should have been concentrating on his driving. The Department of Transportation says that it is 10 times more dangerous to text and drive than it is to drink and drive.
Example #2: The pornography industry is a $97 billion industry world-wide - more than all the top technology companies combined. And Larry Flynt, one of the barons of porn, wants $5 billion from the Federal Government to bail out his industry, which he says has been "hurt" by the recession. Interestingly, Christians probably use as much porn as non-Christians, which helps explain why the industry is so strong, and why the percentage of Christian divorces is equal to non-Christian divorces. That includes clergy.
Example #3: I was recently playing cards with some friends and I could not for the life of me get the younger guys to stop playing with their mobile devices and pay attention to the game. Needless to say, the weakest players at the table were the ones I was addressing. It might have been different if those electronic idols were helping them play better; but they were destroying their focus. These guys were texting friends who weren't even there, and ignoring their friends who were. They were looking for music to play, and in the process were missing the play going on in front of them. They were being rude and unsociable, and as a result ruined the game.
Example #4: Students are, supposedly, making higher SATs and GPAs in order to qualify for colleges' increasingly higher "standards;" yet, they are proving themselves less and less capable of thinking, writing and dealing with real life situations. The only thing they're really better at is using their thumbs to type idiotic messages like "lol no im nt bsy im only drving." What job does that ability qualify them for... if they live to get a job? According to a recent Nielsen study, the typical teen in this country sends 80 text messages per day. Do you know how much time that represents? According to the New York Times, texting creates anxiety, distractions, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation, just to name a handful.
Example #5: I'm dealing with some carpel tunnel and/or repetitive stress injuries after about 15 years of computer use. Almost everyone that has used a computer regularly for 10 to 15 years will experience this problem, and it is occurring in younger and younger users. Because doctors do not understand how to treat this epidemic, we could actually end up as a nation of handicaps. How do you think that would impact health care?! Medicine's usual approach of drugs and surgery isn't working. Only those who seek help outside the system are finding it. Which means it could take years before those treatments become mainstream.
Example #6: No one knows the devastating effects of violent video games and movies on our society, but just last week there was a second incident in Colorado similar to Columbine, just a few miles from the last one. Camps are being set up to try to rehabilitate kids that are addicted to video games, but as yet the results aren't in. The United States is known to the rest of the world as a violent society, and it has nothing to do with our attitude towards guns; it has everything to do with our attitude towards each other. Our violent games and movies are desensitizing us so that, more and more, we view people as either objects or obstacles for our selfish desires.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. I am not exaggerating. For years, we were told about the harmful effects of television, and how it was dumbing down society. Well, multiply that by the number of technological devices we have today. That's how quickly our society is being dumbed down, demoralized, desensitized - in a word, destroyed.
I used to think that all major inventions were inspired by God, but I no longer believe that. I think God lets people invent things; but not everything man comes up with comes from God. If it did, then at least initially it would glorify Him. But I don't see how any of the technology invented in the past 100 years glorifies God. In fact, in times of war, these technological devices are used against mankind and increase the amount of destruction being wreaked, which is why the 20th Century is the bloodiest, most destructive century in history.
The Internet has intensified that destructiveness. More lives are being destroyed faster because of the Internet - far more than are being saved or helped. I told you the statistics on pornography. Think if alcohol could be dispensed that quickly and efficiently to drunks. Alcoholics would be dying right and left. Our families would be devastated. Luckily, alcoholics still have to drive to a store to feed their addiction. Not so porn addicts. They used to have to drive somewhere. But now they just have to log on. I predict that in the coming generation, porn addiction will make alcoholism seem like a tempest in a teapot. I also predict that porn is just the tip of the iceberg: there are also going to be gaming addicts, email addicts, social networking addicts, eBay addicts - whatever obsessions exist today, they are going to skyrocket into addictions of catastrophic proportions.
Every society has some set of credentials by which it measures its members and in which its citizens take pride. To the ancient Greeks, it was philosophy and athletic ability. To the Hebrews, it was the Law of Moses. To the Romans, it was military prowess. To the Medievals, it was knighthood and the code of chivalry. To the English, it was civil law, and their duty to king and country. To Americans, it was once justice and a sense of fair play. But today, technological assets seem to have replaced our higher aspirations: do you have an iPhone, what size is your TV, do you have Blu-ray, do you have GPS in your car, are you on Facebook and how many friends do you have, etc., etc.? Is this the legacy we're going to leave our children?
In Philippians 3:8, the Apostle Paul calls his background in Judaism and all the credentials he once cherished as "rubbish" compared to his new credentials in Christ. How many of us today would even dream of thinking of our technological toys as rubbish, let alone as hinderances to our relationship with Christ and others? Yet, how many of us today get our very identities from those things rather than from Christ?
I truly believe our technology will destroy us as a nation and maybe as a world because, as I look around me, I see it destroying our relationships. And that, my friends, is all there is in this life, and all we're going to take with us into eternity. If you think Facebook is building your relationships, then you have a very low standard for your relationships. Intimacy is God's standard, and that means honesty, transparency and trust. Just how much of that do you think takes place on Facebook?
Most men struggle with their relationships, but it's not hard to see why. We don't know how just to "be" with another person. We have to be doing something, playing with something, watching something. Our conversations are superficial: about our next big business idea, sports or our latest technological toy, rather than just enjoying the other person. We need to learn how to "be." That includes "being" with God each day, meditating on His Word, spending time in nature, writing with pencil and paper, communicating face-to-face, and thinking deep thoughts - disciplines that every great person that ever lived practiced.
In the movie Wall-e, those couch potatoes on the luxury cruise ship had little to no interaction with each other because they were so focused on themselves and their electronic devices. That is a mild picture, in my opinion, compared to the real technology-dependent, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually immature people we are producing in our society. I think the movie Matrix hits closer to home. As we are becoming increasingly plugged-in, technologically, we are becoming less and less aware, spiritually. At some point, our entire world is going to exist online, and the real world is going to fade into oblivion.
In the old days, when evil was present in a community, the citizens would take that evil out and burn it, whether it was a person, an animal or an article. Can you imagine having to cart out all the evil in our communities today and burn it? How do you burn the Internet, all the porn sites, all the computers connected to those sites, all the minds that are being polluted, and all the lives that are being destroyed? But there's a day coming...
The Bible says that, one day, Christ is going to come back and start His own bonfire - and He's going to throw the entire earth and all the heavens on it. That will be a sight to see. Everything that doesn't honor Him will be burned up and new heavens and a new earth will arise like a phoenix from the ashes - ones in which righteousness lives. Let the devil put that in his technological pipe and smoke it.
Don't get me wrong: technology isn't evil... we are. Guns don't kill, people do. Technology doesn't destroy, we do. But technology intensifies our destructiveness. We have a choice: we can continue to feed our addictions via the Internet and all the other devices we've surrounded ourselves with, and destroy ourselves, those we say we love, and even our nation. Or, we can submit our technology to the will of Christ and let Him show us how to use it for His glory. Which will it be? I hope the latter, because a nation of addicts is no place to live, and certainly nothing to be proud of.
Waitsel Smith, February 28, 2010
COMMENTS FROM READERS LIKE YOU:
[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page.]
Actually, the porn industry is in crisis. Piracy and free YouTube-like sites are taking all the profit out of the industry. Which is nice irony since at some level the porn industry drove the creation of several internet-based business models. Turns out the rush to "free" hurts them just as much as it does the New York Times.
Sometimes economics are stronger than morals. - Kurt, USA
Waitsel, Good timing. Just did a Retreat with 1,800 Middle School kids. Texting, i-phones, i-pods, I, I, I, I. What eternal value does it really bring? Yes, I know, I am an old geezer and out of date. But I think my Dad has happier in the Great Depression with nothing, but an old well-worn baseball glove, a coat he wore for several years, shoes re-soled 4 or 5 times, and friends to play with. - Brad, USA
Waitsel - Good stuff, spot on. Technology has given us a chance to deceive ourselves into thinking that we can be omnipresent. Instead of being everywhere with everyone, we end up being nowhere with anyone. As you mentioned, our society is losing the notion of "being present" with others -- our children, friends, spouses. Conversations are only tentative because the next instant message or email or phone call or facebook status update, etc., will trump the conversation. It reminds of the part in Lewis' The Screwtape Letters where the devil is giving advice to his nephew about distracting Christians. The secret is to have them dwell on the past or ponder the future -- whatever you do, don't let them focus on the present because that's where the Infinite intersects with the Finite; it's where they will find God.
In the corporate world this has become a problem for me. I have a company Blackberry and a global team out of Manila, India, Europe and Atlanta. They (and my boss) have expectations about my availability that I could not have imagined five years ago. Definitely a battlefield. - Brian, Georgia USA
Thanks Waitsel, Your words are always thought provoking. George Barna says statistically evangelicals don't live much differently than non christians. What do you think it would take to change that? - Scott, Georgia USA
Waitsel, great article. I agree with you that technological advances have made us less able to engage in flesh and blood relationships with others. I don't own an i-phone (I was sure that if I got one, I'd waste time that I should be spending on work or with other people), and it bothers me that the preferred method of communication for most teens and twenties is texting (it is so sterile and impersonal). My older son has the most primitive cell phone we could find, no internet capabilities (we take it from him each night), and our younger son doesn't have a cell phone at all (doesn't need one). We want to keep it that way as long as possible.
Back in the 80s, I heard a pastor talking about how the devil is called "the prince of the power of the air," and he applied that to how the devil used TV and radio to accomplish his ends because they were "on the air". I thought that was a very interesting take on things.
Perhaps there will be a backlash against all of this in the future and people will go back to living simpler lives. It's something to pray for; that people will come to their senses and stop using technology so much and start talking to each other again. - Herschel, Georgia USA
Thanks for all your great comments!
Text © 2010 Waitsel Smith. Photos © as indicated. All Rights Reserved.