Culture Technology

Why Go Tech-Free?: Navigating Screen Culture

“This whole century is sensory overload” (“Dreams” by Shad). Every day our senses are constantly being bombarded with sounds and images, all of it carefully crafted to grab our attention and secure our devotion. They are like voices constantly chattering, building up to a fever pitch, trying to make us into acolytes for their vision of the world. These voices fill our media, technology and systems, and there’s rarely time to be still and process how they are shaping us. As Christians, we are to be formed spiritually, morally, and intellectually through reading Scripture and in prayer. In this busy, noisy world, we must take time away where we can listen for and be formed by the voice of God.

“If I’m adding to the noise,” then put down this article (“Adding to the Noise” by Switchfoot). I’m biased, but I think putting down this magazine and listening to that song would be a pretty good use of your time. If you decide to keep reading, or found your way back here after the song ended, then I’ve got a story to tell you.

Earlier this year, I decided to try a little experiment and see if I could live without a computer or smartphone. Screens have a tendency to paradoxically absorb and divide my attention; they make me overwhelmed, distracted and anxious. Our lives now revolve around these devices, and it’s hard to find time away. I had become like one of the prisoners in Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, chained to a post and watching shadows of reality playing before my eyes. I wanted peace, but I was jacked into what pastor Mark Sayers calls the “ambient anxiety” of our globalized, digitally connected age (This Cultural Moment, Season 2, Episode 2). I was deaf to the voice of God. For 7 months, I relied on the public library and a little flip phone that can only call or text. I suddenly had time to read, write, and engage in relationships without distraction. It was refreshing, freeing, and rejuvenating. Like the prisoner who made his way out of the cave to see reality for the first time, I began to notice the world around me with fresh eyes. I started to hear God speaking to me again.

I haven’t mastered this. I still have to work hard to protect space in my life for God, but I now know the difference it makes in my life. If there’s something in my story that connected with you, then it might be worth trying this out for yourself!

Through this experiment, I learned anew that we need to take time apart from our devices so that we can be formed by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Our digital devices are useful tools, and they improve our lives in many ways. They also make the brokenness of our humanity more acute, allowing us to see our hunger for God in sharp relief. The heartbeat of our age is lostness, restlessness; there’s pent-up anxiety pulsating like magma below the skin of many.

God is sufficient for you. His Word is the only antidote to your storms. His voice is the only voice that can bring peace to hearts and minds in an increasingly distracted, divided, and lonely world. Take time away to listen for Him.

Photo by Ales Nesetril