Many in our culture act as if electronics, social media and TV are neutral. They are simply there. That is naive at best. Electronics are not neutral. They dictate our lives, pump us with more desire for approval, and often help us waste time and miss out on relationships with family and friends. They can keep us from work and ultimately, run our lives and ruin our lives.
Below are some helpful questions from Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers to ask yourself about your relationship with electronics:
Attention: What is the primary and ongoing focus of our awareness? Screens and virtual relationships? Family and neighbors? Voyeuristic television “reality shows”? Nature and our surrounding environment? Is our capacity to pay attention, dwell, and be aware diminishing? Are we so overwhelmed with information and stimulation that our ability to respond is affected? Are we moving from receptivity to expecting to control what we perceive?
Limits: What guides our sense of what is appropriate? Do we have the moral strength to recognize when something is beyond the pale and that we need to say no? Or does technology, which makes more and more things possible, including voyeurism, pornography, and gambling, also make all things permissible? Which taboos are worth guarding? How does technology free us from moral constraints and accountability? What is the relationship of technology to addictions? How does technology reinforce addictions? How is technology itself addictive?
Engagement: How are we coping with life and its challenges? Do we approach our day and those we love with calm anticipation, eager to be and work together? Or do such rushed and harried attention spans lead us into being demanding and curt? How does technology speed encounters, making conflicts and misunderstandings more likely? Does planned and perceived obsolescence contribute to eroding commitments?
Relationships: Do our lives include rich networks of loved ones, supportive friends, caring confidants, and casual acquaintances? Are there people who know us in our fullness, care about our hardships, and challenge us to grow in virtue? Or are our lives characterized by growing isolation and loneliness, our relationships dispersed and fragmented? What are the implications of having relationships increasingly mediated by technology while opportunities for face-to-face conversations decline and in-the-flesh friendships decrease? How does technology reinforce casual approaches to relationships, ones that are easy to enter or exit but do not necessarily sustain? What kinds of communities are created by our technology use?
Time: Do we have a sense that there is enough room in our lifestyles for the things that truly matter—work and play, rigor and rest, love and laughter? Or are we too busy to live according to our deepest and highest priorities? Do distracting demands and pressures lure us away from our highest values? How does engagement with technology make us busier? And how does technology erode and displace opportunities to pause and determine, reflect on, and honor ultimate priorities? Space: How well connected are we with the geography and places where we are located? Are we rooted in neighborhoods, connected to the earth and our environment? Or is much of our life lived abstractly in “virtual” reality?