I love to hear my pastor preach. I am rarely at my home church, but I do listen to him online. He recently completed a brief series of messages regarding technology and its challenges for Christian living (See page 3). Good sermons not only inspire, but also cause you to evaluate. He hit his target. He has caused me to think about the invasion of technology in my life and yours.
Over the last 50 years we have had an explosion of technology. It is utterly amazing the advances that have been made. Words like Email, Twitter, Facebook, laptop, iPod, iPad and Smartphone did not exist 50 years ago. Like many of you, I have witnessed this technological revolution and have benefited greatly, while at the same time have experienced some of the curses of these advancements.
When I use the term “technological invasion,” I do mean just that. In many ways technology started out as a welcome guest in our lives. Now it has become too often an intruder. I admit that I am rarely without my iPhone and am constantly checking it. To the chagrin of my wife (true of most I have discovered), I usually sit in my easy chair with my iPhone in one hand, iPad in the other and a laptop nearby. The very technology developed to ease our lives has begun to control us. Be assured the issue is not technology, but our choices regarding its place in our lives. Technology is designed to benefit and, instead, we use it to rob us of relationships, margins in our schedules and sanity.
Perhaps the most egregious curse in regard to our use of technology is allowing the virtual world to become reality. IT IS NOT! I was blessed to grow up in a Norman Rockwell world. In that world we actually invited people to our home to eat. We also sat in the yard and neighbors would drop by for a chat—the yard was our “chat room.” Friends spent time together. When I was in elementary school, I remember the big event was to go to town on Saturday night, eat a hamburger at the café and sit on the hood of the car on main street to talk with friends who passed by. OK, so now I have really lost some of you younger folk.
Today, our use of technology has drastically changed this. Have you ever heard someone say, “I ‘friended’ so-and-so on Facebook last night”? Or, “I ‘unfriended’ so-and-so.” With the flick of a button, you can friend or unfriend people in the virtual world of Facebook. Now give me a break and do not think I am condemning Facebook or other social media. Facebook is a great way to make contact with people you would never see. Old school friends and acquaintances, people from college days and people you have encountered in travels all can be kept informed of your activities and you can interact with them.
I do challenge the idea that friendship should be dealt with so cheaply and, in fact, that the word “friend” should apply to someone you connect with online. Some people hold most of their friendships in a virtual world. I contend real friendship is not as easy as the touch of a button, and a real friendship cannot be ended by the push of a button. God created us to live as a community not just a virtual community. Friends are people who have your back, suffer with you, rejoice with you, hug your neck when you need a soft touch and are present when you need them. Friends are people whose faces you want to see and whose hands you want to shake. They are people who will sit and listen to you work through your thoughts over a cup of coffee. Friends are the ones who pray for you and who join you in worship.
My pastor is right. We need to manage our technology so it serves us—not us serve it. By the way, I just “friended” all of you. Don’t look for me in the virtual world of Facebook, but do say “hello” when we meet face to face.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.