Meet the New American Family, Digitally Deluged
The change in human experience is so vast that Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco, names it one of the most significant shifts ever experienced in the history of humanity — and one with inevitable consequences.
What about multitasking? Many people claim that exposure to digital technologies prompts the development of a new mental skill, managing multiple mental tasks. As it turns out, multitasking seems to be more of an illusion than a reality. Richtel reports that brain researcher Eyal Ophir of Stanford University has found that multitasking actually takes quite a toll on the brain's ability to concentrate on anything. Furthermore, research also suggests that multitaskers have a very difficult time turning that mode of thinking off — a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why some people cannot handle real-life face-to-face conversations.
In an accompanying article in The New York Times, Tara Parker Pope asked a chilling but revealing question: "Has the high-speed Internet made you impatient with slow-speed children?" Does that question not arrest you on the spot?
The research indicates that people who are highly invested in digital involvements are less empathetic, less attentive, less patient, and less able to remember something as basic as a conversation.
Just imagine what all this means. While the average American is likely to express some measure of concern in light of this research, and while most families no doubt seek a life different than that described of the Campbells, Christians have to look at this picture with a very different and far deeper set of concerns.
Is that what we were created to be? Is this the purpose for which God created humanity? The Creator made us in his image, and thus to be relational beings. But this relationality is intended to be expressed first and foremost in relationships with human beings, and certainly not with machines. A biblical understanding will also press us to identify the relationships of our greatest accountability — the relationships of marriage, family, kinship, and congregation — as well as the relationships of greatest Gospel opportunity. When these relationships suffer due to digital distractions, we bear full moral responsibility.
The answer is not to throw away all the digital gadgets. The information revolution is here to stay, and it comes with great gifts as well as tremendous temptations. Christians are not called to be modern-day Luddites, smashing digital devices with sledgehammers. But we are called to be faithful stewards of digital opportunities, even as we are also called to be faithful in all our relationships. That second stewardship is surely of greater importance than the first.
This stewardship will require clear boundaries, honest self-knowledge, and authentic accountability. Otherwise, you may well end up spending more time with your digital devices than with the people you love. Count on this . . . they will notice.
Related to this topic is my address ("The Hypersocialized Generation") at the Ligonier Ministries 2010 pre-conference: "Bits, Bytes, Blogs & Bibles: Christian Communication in a Hypersocialized World."
Matt Richtel, "Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price," The New York Times, Monday, June 7, 2010.
Tara Parker Pope, "An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness," The New York Times, Monday, June 7, 2010.
Find this article at: http://www.crosswalk.com/parenting/11633379/