Something has changed in our society over the last 10 years. Dr. J Kalas says, “We’ve developed a kind of mental and emotional edginess that goes with us even when the materials of implementation are not there.”
Adam Alter: Private school allows no technology in Bay area, all kids have parents in tech industry. Drug dealers have a saying: “Never get high on your own supply.” Steve Jobs allowed no iphones or handheld tech in his home. He realized children were vulnerable to certain devices running certain apps, and he knew what he was creating had no place in his children’s lives.
Evan Williams chairman and CEO of twitter—refused to give kids an ipad or smart phones.
Mr. Anderson, editor of wired—strict limits on technology in his home, seen the dangers first hand. Only screen time on the weekends.
These tech experts have good reason to be concerned. Working at the far edge of possibility, they discovered that our understanding of addiction is too narrow. We tend to think of addiction as something inherent in certain people—those we label as addicts. Heroin addicts in vacant row houses. Chain-smoking nicotine addicts. Pill-popping prescription-drug addicts. The label implies that they’re different from the rest of humanity. They may rise above their addictions one day, but for now they belong to their own category.
In truth, modern behavioral addiction is produced largely by environment and circumstance. Steve Jobs knew this. He knew it and he refused to allow his kids to be exposed to dangerous amounts of his own products.
Adam Alter says in his book, “Irresistable” shows that over and over social scientists have reproduced the same results: “replacing human person to person social interaction with itech reduces social skills and well being. Reduces observation skills. Empathy is highly reduced.”
Empathy is projected behavior. We tap into it with gestures and tone of voice. We tell people what they are supposed to feel, identify with the topic/person. So when your kids can’t understand you and you can’t understand them, part of that is an empathy deficiency. It’s more than a generation gap.
For instance, as a preacher, digital natives may not even know you are happy when you preach about happy. There are no emoji there to help them. Digital natives often can’t perceive why you are so serious, so happy. They feel uncomfortable with emotion, any emotion is distracting and produces anxiety in them. In some cases, any human conversation can make them respond with anxiety, nervousness, or even panic attacks because they’ve conditioned themselves with 24/7 digital to human interface. Human to human isn’t what they are wired for any longer. They need a dongle, a usb2 to 3 to hdmi adapter to connect to another human.
Of course this creates isolation. Isolation is another part of the issue. Not just emotional distraction but relational emptiness. You either latch onto the herd of the online world or you don’t spend time with friends. Period. You don’t know where the herd is going. And if all your friends are connected to the Matrix, are on Snapchat, are on wikr, snow, Instagram, then if you are not, you have no idea where they are or what they are doing.
This is why I came back to Facebook. I no longer like it. But there are some people in my world that I lost contact with when I left Facebook. There were real consequences from my decision to leave FB in that people who needed to talk to me about things didn’t. And that had very negative consequences. So I came back and I urge you to not think that I’m trying to get you to leave the Internet or social media. That’s not the answer. Why? Because the tech and the apps are not inherently bad.
IQ scores are rising for the first time since the late 70s. Skills and abilities improves and gives confidence to cognitive abilities. Certain Brain injury is treated with tech because social networks give off a burst of dopamine when you do it right and that motivates stroke victims and other disabled people to keep trying to reach out to others in spite of their hinderances.
Learning opportunities and charity exists via online communities. That’s a good thing that comes from the new media.
Tech is not evil. Yes, it’s improved since the 80s and 90s and isn’t clunky any more. I had Handspring Visor that I converted into a smart phone in 1993. It was amazing and useful. But clunky, so much so that it was hard to get addicted to anything on it. But now hardware has become smooth and fast and you can have multiple programs and windows open at once—do you remember when you could only run one program at once on Dos 3.1? You could only multitask by opening virtual windows, and then only as many as your ram could run. And then we got primitive multitasking native to Dos 4? Those were the days. But could you get addicted to it? No not really, not unless you liked programming.
But now the tech, hardware and software, it’s smooth. It’s VR ready. And apps are using that power.
The problem is that it’s intentionally addictive. The apps are the problem. They are nicotine, except different drug—dopamine. From VTA, (Ventral tegmental area) it flows everywhere. And it is “free.” You just need to tap into it and voila, you have an addiction pathway from a product to a person.
That’s not the bad news. As in substance abuse, the only way to match the original high is the up the dosage. So app makers are left with no choice but to make their games more and more addictive, more and more sticky. The whole industry is in a race to find the next best addictive app and sell it until you hit bottom and then they start over.
There is no profit motive to reduce addiction. In 2004 it was fun. In 2016 it’s an addiction industry and your family needs help. My congregation needs help.
Average smart phone user spends 3 hours on smart phone per day. 16 hours of screen time a day is not unusual at all so that every waking moment is either in front of a TV, laptop, smartphone, sometimes 2 at once.
Just looking at smartphone time, that’s an average of ¼ of waking lives on the phone. 100 hours lost per month, 11 years over an adult lifetime. 11 years of time. Gone.
How should we help?
- Raise awareness. Talk about the problem and educate your family.
- TGC Preacher’s Toolkit by Sebastian Kim also his Tabletalk and TGC articles
- Relationship vs System of Discipleship Shepherding is knowing the flock and being known by them. Talk about the mundane. Be with people. Work together. With your hands, kneecap to kneecap time together.
- Show them. Chad Bettis, “they will not die” Digital sabbath, put every device in a basket for a couple of days a week. Sunday, Wednesday. Whatever. Eat meals together. Develop empathy through quality and quantity time. Mari K. Swingle digital media is the most cost effective babysitter. Stop entertaining your children. Period. That’s not your job. And realize that they know when you are binging and when you are working. They can smell what the wifi is cooking.
- Ed Welch says “Addictive decisions are about God and thus about repentance. Addictions are idolatry. “I put my phone away because I’ve learned I must actively listen to not only preaching, but to God’s work of illumination happening everywhere.”
- Meaningful Discipleship: Direct people to the truth. Steve Jobs—it’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want. This has a good and bad side; we must use this reality for good. Tell people what they want.
Tim Keller: “The assumptions of technology are not presented explicitly but are absorbed via stories and media.” “Machines are better” is the message. But this explicitly steers you away from God and church. Meaningful discipleship counteracts this implicitly and explicitly, as I’m doing now.
Sources: A lecture by Sebastian Kim at PCA GA 2018, two of his articles in Tabletalk and at TCG, an article by Adam Alatar from Wired, and his book “Irresistible.”