Spirituality, Smartphones and Social Media

Taken from the intimation sheet: 17 August 2014

I’m thankful for the internet. I’m even thankful for smartphones and social media sites – thanks to them I can stay in touch with people all around the world in a way that would simply never have been possible 15 or 20 years ago. I’m able to update my calendar instantly and it will be synced across all of my devices (no more carrying barely legible notes around on scraps of paper until I’m able to get to my diary!) I do some research or preparation whilst on the train or bus. The internet is enabling the church to take the Gospel in new and innovative ways into closed and hostile countries.

There is much that is good, but there are dangers for the Christian; dangers that virtual relationships begin to replace real relationship, dangers with regards to good stewardship of our time, dangers with respect to our capacity to concentrate and think rigorously for the cause of the Kingdom.

Tim Challies says “a technology wears its benefits on its sleeve – but the drawbacks are buried deep within.” The truth of that statement stuck me forcibly when listening to an interview (yes – on the internet!) recently. You can hear the whole interview here. but the interviewee finished with 6 pertinent questions which are transcribed below:

Six ways your smartphone may be changing you

1. Am I becoming like what I behold in my smartphone? Are my face-to-face relationships conforming to modes of communication that are shaped by my online habits?

2. Am I overlooking my finiteness? I am finite. I am a man severely limited in what I can know and what I can read and what I engage and what I can care about. So do I want to know everything? Do I fear being left behind on what’s trending online right now?

3. Am I multitasking priorities that should be uni-tasked. Specifically is my time with God in the word and I prayer being distracted and even being replaced by digital interruptions?

4. I am deleting my embodiment? Do I truly value the personal, face-to-face relationships in my life over the disembodied relationships I maintain online? Are my face-to-face relationships with my neighbour, my spouse and my kids suffering as a result?

5. I am losing interest in the gathered church on Sunday? Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, corporate worship, the laying on of hands – do I truly value the embodied reality that is my local church? Do I fiddle through it on my phone looking for something more entertaining?

6. Am I careless with my words? It’s easy for my words to be published online. So what self-imposed limitations do I have to filter what I say and do I have any accountability in my life for what I say online?

Other resources:
“Will you be my Facebook Friend” a small and accessible booklet by Tim Chester

“The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion” a slightly more in-depth book by Tim Challies