Digital addiction, in my opinion, is kind of like what smoking must have been in the early 20th century – completely ubiquitous with little thought to its harmful effects. Seventy years ago, the death causing aspects of smoking were fairly plain to see yet few people seemed to make much effort to remove its sway on society. Similarly, the harmful effects of digital addiction are noticeable yet little has been done to rearrange our priorities when it comes to technology.
I have been concerned by technology, and its negative influence for some time. I am concerned, not because I am afraid of it or a Luddite that sees it as the beginning of the end of civilization. I am concerned because I know its negative power in my own life. Physically, I suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that has already been operated on once. Socially, my ever-present need to be “in the know” and aware of what’s relevant has me clinging to my devices for the IV drip of information and entertainment; all the while, distracting myself from the present and persistent needs of those who are right in front of me and the God who may be speaking to me.
The hyperlinked life, as David Kinnaman and Jun Young call it, is a like a train that we are on that we may not need to get off of entirely but we do need a different way of riding. Christians need to develop, according to the authors, a theology of technology. Just as Christians have an approach and particular practices concerning daily matters such as sex, work, and family, they also need to think intentionally about their use of technology.
I appreciate the Barna Group and their consistent assessment of trends and movements. So much of the Christian world is hopelessly behind the curve when it comes to the latest trends but Barna, now led by Kinnaman, are one of the few organizations that speak to issues that are relevant to the now. The Hyperlinked Life, though short and lacking thoroughness and deep scholarship, is a key book in getting Christians to assess their personal use of technology.