In 1985 the late Neil Postman wrote the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death where he famously critiqued our modern culture and the way the technology of television had eroded our societies ability to think and discourse deeply on the serious issues we face. He argued that television had turned even the most serious of news into a form of mind-numbing entertainment.
But that was 1985, before the modern advances of the internet, email, twitter, facebook, the iPhone, etc. Did we heed Postman’s warnings as we embraced these new advances in technology? Hardly.
In The Next Story, Christian author and blogger Tim Challies seeks to help God’s people to develop a God honoring theory, theology, and experience of technological engagement. To be clear, Challies is not a Luddite, as mentioned, he is a blogger, he uses facebook, twitter, an iPad, and an iPhone. He argues that technological advancements are part of God’s command to humanity to have dominion over the earth. He says that technology is not inherently evil or good, the issue lies in our own, often sinful, hearts.
If you’ve ever felt like the pace of the modern world and the demand for your constant attention is either draining your energy or causing you to obsess over the facebook world, then this would be a great book for you.
As God’s people we’re called to think deeply and live out our faith in a meaningful context of community. While email, twitter, your smartphone, and facebook offer a type of community, it isn’t typically meaningful or soul satisfying community. Yet as more and more of our time is sucked away by these things, our ability to engage in the one-on-one, slow, thoughtful, and meandering conversations begins to disappear. If you’ve ever been out with your friends and have each simultaneously been checking email, or surfing the internet, instead of talking amongst yourselves, you’ve fallen prey to this (confession: I certainly have).
So how now do we live? That’s a good question, and a good starting point for figuring out how to live in the sweet spot where theory, theology, and practice of technology overlap. To begin to break the bondage of our cultural captivity to technology, a good place to start would be by reading and applying this book.