Addiction, Avoidance, Distraction & Technology

texting 2Electronic Fellowship

In a hallway between the sanctuary and fellowship hall at my church sits a pew where most Sundays a half dozen teens fellowship with their cell phones, Ipods and Kindles. During service, their fellowship continues, and many adults join in the fellowshipping with their Ipads and smart phones too.

This electronic fellowship ceases – sort of – during worship but returns fully at sermon start, continuing until the “stand and pray.” Sure, some may use their devices for Bibles, but I’m pretty sure doing so involves less thumb movement.

I realize the caution needed here regarding law and rules and judging others, so let me turn this on myself. I leave my cell phone at home on Sundays and Wednesdays when I go to church because if I don’t, I’ll fellowship with it instead of fellowshipping face-to-face. No matter how much I say I’ll leave it in my bag, the temptation to check it usually wins out at some point.

And yes, I’m even tempted during the sermon (sorry, Pastor) to check messages. I’m simply better focused on connecting with the body and hearing from God if my handheld device gets alone time at home while I’m at church.

But I can’t help but wonder…

Do so many teens stay on their devices while at church because they don’t want to talk to other people? Or, are they simply that addicted to texting or gaming or whatever they’re doing? Do the adults on their devices during the sermon simply have an addiction to staying connected? Or, are they using them to distract themselves from what they know they need to hear but don’t want to hear because then they’ll have to change?

For my part…

I know it’s addiction since I sometimes just can’t seem to resist the lure. It’s avoidance too, because some days my introverted self finds my cell phone much easier to connect with than the people around me. And while I’m at it, I’ll admit that its also distraction. After all, mindlessly surfing the Internet is a great way to not deal with life and forget about mistakes.

Beyond the Church Walls

Certainly, this is not a church-specific problem since this particular challenge with technology exists abundantly outside the church walls too. And unfortunately, our obsession not only allows for easy avoidance and distraction, but it is also creating some serious social issues with far-reaching impact.

According to Psychology Today, a prolific use of technology causes…text 3

  1. Isolation – We feel socially isolated because we end up substituting or mistaking electronic relationships for physical ones.
  2. Unhealthy substitution – Reading LOL in no way lifts your spirits like hearing a person’s laughter. Likewise, electronic confrontation limits effective resolution since emotions rarely come across as accurately when written as when experienced in person. These types of substitution limit the necessary human contact relationships need to deepen and grow.
  3. Loss of etiquette – Many people say online what they would never say in person. Likewise, electronic communication allows for avoidance of difficult situations simply because ignoring and sidestepping is easier electronically than face-to-face.

These are just some of the challenges presented by over-use of mobile devices, challenges that happen when we choose electronic communication too often over face-to-face connection. And, unfortunately, this causes us to become increasingly uncomfortable experiencing and expressing true emotion but at the same time craving it to the point of desperately seeking it out even more and usually in the wrong places.

In closing, consider the following quote by Jonathan Safran Foer in “How Not to Be Alone.

“Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat… My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.”

DISCUSSION: Weigh in on how you see addiction, avoidance and distraction with regard to the use of technology. Please offer any solutions and bring in any relevant Scripture application.

18 thoughts on “Addiction, Avoidance, Distraction & Technology

  1. I leave my phone on my desk. Don't think it would be too cool to stop the sermon and read/answer a text. 🙂 But then again, maybe it would be a wake-up call. the other day someone's cell went off and I finally stopped and said, "Someone's phone is going off." 1-2 minutes that same phone went off again. I try hard to pay attention to people when I am with them. Even my wife does her fb stuff with me around. Hmmm is that saying something about me? 🙂
    My recent post Pervasion

    • I offered to answer a student's phone once in the middle of class. The offer was not accepted or appreciated though. I have also walked away from a friend who stopped mid-conversation with me to answer a text. She didn't say anything to me, just stopped talking and focused on her phone. Even my husband gets easily distracted by his phone over me sometimes. So, if it's being "said" about you, it is about me too, apparently. Actually, I don't think it's saying anything about us so much as it is about how easily our phones can grab our attentions, kind of like a young child that says, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy…." incessantly until mom stops what she's doing and gives the attention.

    • And it should irritate you. I'd say there was a bigger issue for you if it didn't bother you. I want to turn the WiFi off during Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, but they won't let me 😉 I know it wouldn't get to everyone with cell signals, but it would hit some. Plus, the cell signal isn't that great inside the church building. Shame on me!

  2. Well done.

    I learned how addicting technology is the first time I fasted from it for 21 days. No TV, internet, phone, etc for 21 days!
    The first week was hard, but it gradually became easier to not crave the devices that bring instant gratification.

    I leave my phone in the car at church and I use an actual Bible, not a Bible app (though I do like the Bible apps for writing blog posts, it doesn't take the place of my actual Bible).

    • What bothers me even though I feel I'm pretty balanced regarding my technology use is that when I think of doing a 21-day fast of technology, I first think, "I can't because…" and then list my reasons/excuses. The, I think that if I tried it, I would have to make some exceptions in order to make it work. I'm not sure if I just need to accept that it's a part of life these days or what. Instead, I am focusing on regular times without it, though not nearly as long as 21 days. I use Biblegateway a ton for when I'm writing or preparing to teach, so I definitely agree that there are a lot of benefits to technology with this being one of them. But, like you, I use my actual Bible at church. I also read actual books fairly often too. I think it does something positive for our thinking, kind of balancing them from the way we think when we use electronics.

  3. I'd like to think I'm not addicted, but my family would probably say the opposite. I don't give out my cell phone number to many people, so I can leave that without a problem . . . but my MAC and iPad are a different story. I don't take them with me, so I do better when I'm out than I do at home.

    I think it's like everything – moderation it key. Now, how to we find a balance in using technology. Hmmm.
    My recent post 12 Commandments to Strengthen Your Family

  4. I think the First commandment would fit pretty well with this Kari. I believe we can turn our technology into a god. You are so right that we need to "BE STILL" and worship, and that includes face to face fellowship and allowing the Spirit to speak to us in all parts of worship.
    I have a funny story about how mine went off by accident at the communion table, I had it with me because my late husband was home alone and ill, and I forgot to turn it off or to vibrate.
    I leave mine in the car when I go into the church, as does my husband. In our rural area it would make no difference since they do not get service there!
    I find it very annoying and rude when people stop talking to take a message, but then I found myself doing it to someone the other day. It opened my eyes to how addicted I had become. And kids don't want to be without that connection, even for a few moments! sad.
    thanks for sharing. I am still having feedburner troubles, but my brother in law is forwarding your blogs to me.

    • Thanks for sticking with me even though you're having technical issues, Mary. That means a lot 🙂 This month's focus on technology has helped me see some trouble spots for myself and my family as well. We'll make some adjustments and get better balanced as a result. That's all we can do… make mistakes, learn from them, and keep moving forward as led by the Spirit.

  5. This is going on my fb wall today. Good one Kari because one of the things I have notice since moving back to the states is an addiction to our cell phone, social media. Even though they be being used for good purposes it's still an addiction. When someone text while they are talking to me…I feel disvalued. I think I can put it clearer, it's rude, disrespectful to those around you. Even good things need self control. Great message…great reminder…great way to honor the Lord is to be honest in all things. Whatsoever we do needs to bring honor to Him. He can read everything we post, read, text before we do it because He see our hearts. Let me say it again, good post my courageous wise hearted blogging sister. Got to get off here and fix lunch…
    My recent post My Favorite Post/Second Time Wife

    • Thank you for the encouragement too, Betty. It means a lot that this is something you feel would benefit others to read. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. I think the problem is, mainly, that we don't think enough about how social media and being more virtually than face-to-face connected is damaging relationships. My purpose is to get people thinking about it, but actually mostly to assess the issue in my own life. And I am making adjustments as a result!

  6. The danger of phones/smart devices is that it can remove us from what is going on around us. Whether it's in church, spending time with friends or family, at work, and every where else. We are not able to be in the moment because of being on our phones. It can cause us to miss out on what is going on around us. Great thoughts in this post!
    My recent post Comment on Do You Have The Confidence To Lead? by Dan Black

    • They definitely can keep us from living in and truly experiencing the valuable moments of life. If this seems so obvious, why do they still grab the attention of so many people? Thanks, Dan.

  7. This is one of the issues I've been dealing with ever since I started writing seriously two years ago. Fortunately, I share a cell phone with my daughter (that doesn't even have texting and no Internet), so I'm not tempted when I'm away from my computer, but it's definitely a temptation when I'm writing. I've spent I would guess hundreds of hours by now renewing my mind about this and continually bringing my thoughts captive to Christ to see it from His perspective. I expect the wall to tumble at any time. It hasn't tumble yet, but it's severely weakened! I definitely think the answer is strict boundaries and getting rid of the lies we believe that make us think it's a good idea.
    My recent post Devotion: Planners, Spontaneous People, and God

    • We'll make mistakes, that's for sure, but if we keep getting back up and moving forward, learning from those mistakes, that's all God asks of us. Basing what you do on the Truth is key for sure, Barb. I also realize that what works for me won't work for others, so I quit comparisons. I get ideas from people and then keep making small changes that are adding up for big difference in my life. I look for MY normal, not anyone else's and then keep seeking to better that normal.

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