Image of children playing on digital device display

Is the Digital Age Stealing our Peace? (#grace&truth)

Mountain Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

My mornings these days begin with reading my bible, currently following a free app bible plan that is taking me through Acts, chapter by chapter. So, every morning I power up my phone screen, navigate directly to the bible app, but it takes intention to ignore all those other shiny apps — Google Mail, Instagram, Facebook, Apple News, WhatsApp…. It’s amazing, really, how a device smaller than the average potato can distract us into an unfruitful busyness, into a comparison mindset, and into what feels like a time warp when suddenly we lift our heads up seeing more minutes have passed than we thought possible from pressing an icon, and swiping our fingers up and down a screen just a few inches tall and wide. 

When my sister answers my phone call, I listen to her say, “Google stop” like she is talking to a misbehaving toddler. The radio shuts off, and she turns her attention to our conversation. I appreciate her shutting down the distraction, but I also question: When did we start to personify Google?

The definition of personification (noun), according to the Oxford Dictionary is “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.”

Whether it is my sister telling her Google Home device to stop, or my friend advising to “just ask Google how to get there,” or my children telling me “Google will know,” personification of Google seems to be normal these days. And I, too, can give a personal nature to Google, like the other day when I found myself muttering “Google, you’re so frustrating at times” when it confirmed the scrabble word was correct, and my husband won the match (again). 

Regardless, it’s a slippery slope when our devices become our main go to for our decisions, our search for answers, and our entertainment. Technology in itself isn’t bad, as we’ve been advised, however I like how John Mark Comer from his latest book “Practicing The Way” writes:

So, do you want Google (or any internet search engine) to be telling you what to do, who you are, and where to go? Or do you want the Holy Spirit to guide your behaviour, your decisions, and your time? 

We live in a digital age, and we do need technology for many of our every day tasks. But we also need to approach technology as the battleground it is – with a sword of discretion and a shield against distractions from the One we are called to serve. 

Waterfall in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

I, my friend, can fall into the scrolling time warp! So, I’ve taken on a personal challenge to intentionally: 

1. Combat unfruitful busyness by reminding myself that not posting on Instagram (my choice of social media engagement) every day (or even once a week) is not a measure of success or failure. Get busy with the fruitful business of God – starting with seeking His presence during my days to lead me and guide my steps. 

2. Stop the comparison mindset by acknowledging each of us is on our path to do whatever God has set out for us in our life time. If a sense of failure comes upon me when I do scroll through social media or search out a subject in Google, I now stop, turn off my phone, or shut the lid of my laptop. I recognize I’m a work in progress and, to let Jesus form me, I need to shut down the distractions that lead me away from who He says I am. 

3. And not let time pass me by practicing presence. This could mean lifting my eyes from my screen to look out my office window, a breath prayer, or a walk without any headphones and my phone left behind. 

Resisting the ways of the world, that wants us to shape our behaviour according to its desires instead of following the ways of Jesus to shape us into the person God designed us to be, takes intentional effort on our part. 

But it’s possible — with God. 

What restraints do you use to remove distractions and to bring in the peace of Christ—learning to live the Jesus way?

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  1. I’ve been wanting to read the book “Practicing the Way.” I’m thinking it will cause me lots of conviction!
    Currently, I’m working to set controls on my behavior with devices, for I, too, can fall into a scrolling time warp. I’ve been doing what I call “Pomodoro Days,” which is working steadily for 25 minutes without looking at social media. Then I take a break by stretching my legs, say a prayer, check my messages, then back to another 25 minutes of concentrated work. Most days I do pretty good.

    … but some days … I struggle!

    1. Jerralea, I haven’t heard of “Pomodoro Days,” but I like the idea very much! I imagine it can become a natural habit after a while of practicing that method. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  2. ‘It’s amazing, really, how a device smaller than the average potato can distract us into an unfruitful busyness.’ Your words stopped me in my tracks. How have we been seduced into this addictive, online world? Thank you for some practical pointers, friend.

    I try to batch my online time so I’m not just dropping in and out at random moments. Turning off the laptop, silencing the phone, walking away without being literally tethered helps me.

    1. Linda, you say it so well…”seduced into this addictive, online world.” When you say it that way, I definitely want to untether myself! Seduction can be manipulation, and who wants to be manipulated? Walking away from our devices is a very practical way of freeing ourselves, so we use them well.

  3. Lynn, I find walking in the morning to be a great way to disconnect from the media, tune into the Lord, and pray for others. And I join you in tuning into His Presence by beholding His beauty outside my windows.

    1. Walking with God in the morning is a beautiful way to set our day, Lisa! I’m glad you can tune into His presence when we lift our eyes beyond our screens and take in real beauty of His creations.

  4. You have hit on such a needed topic. Technology has surely become a necessity these days, but we need to draw a boundary or set a limit for ourselves. “Technology can steal our time and shape our behaviour.” It sure will. I appreciate this post and the quotes from this book. I try to silence my phone, keeping it face down so I don’t even see it light up 🙂 I also tend to spend time on my laptop mostly in the morning. I do not want it to consume my day, my thoughts, and my life. But it does take effort 🙂

    1. Yes, Joanna! We do “need to draw a boundary or set a time limit for ourselves” when it comes to technology. It’s a fine balance in today’s world, to leave behind our devices and to use our devices. I like the idea of keeping our phones face down and on silent mode, so we our attention is not tempted by sudden lit up screen. It does take effort, but we can overcome with Jesus’ help. 🙂

  5. I definitely see the diminishing effects of screens when I am trying to focus on one thing and one thing ONLY. We’re handing over our attention span—and I’m not sure we’re getting something of equal value in the trade.

  6. I love this, Lynn! We definitely need to be proactive about this, don’t we? And this is such an important, comforting truth: “Each of us is on our path to do whatever God has set out for us in our life time.”

  7. Good article, Lynn.
    I am so glad I don’t own a cell phone. I watch how some people cannot leave their phone alone for 5 minutes at a time without checking for calls or texts. Even in church. It really is an addiction. I have stopped turning on my desktop computer every day. Sometimes I go several days without it. And I try not to spend too much time on it when it is on. It can consume us and our time if we are not careful. Unless I am expecting a particular e-mail or need to track a delivery, I don’t turn it on until at least mid-afternoon after I have finished my prayer time. I start that when I get up, then later my prayer partner joins me on the phone and sometimes it’s 3:00 before we finish. Usually I then get my meal and have a nap, so often I don’t get the computer on until early evening. It hasn’t always been that way. I used to spend so many hours and not get anything else done. Years ago I used to spend a lot of time playing spider solitaire and when I had to replace my computer, I asked the tech not to put the games on the new one. That solved some of the problem. I still do at times spend too much time researching something, but I’m much more careful about how many e-mails I follow up online–much less than a while back. I shop online, but that saves me a great deal of time wandering from store to store trying to find what I want.
    These devices are great if, as you said, we exercise our self-control. It’s definitely not easy, but is doable. Thank the Lord He is always there to help us and to nudge us when we need to stop and look to Him.

    1. Diane, you are showing us how it is “doable” to exercise self-control when it comes to our devices. And we honestly don’t need them as much as we “think” we need them. We can choose to make a phone call instead of sending a text, for example. And we can remove those computer games (and apps) that tempt us into spending listless time we can’t get back. You’ve inspired me to do more! Thank you!