One of the oddities and ironies of modern cinema is its bleak outlook on the future of mankind. If you were to watch the majority of films that depict our world in the years to come, the hope would be scarce, and the metal would be in abundance. More often than not, we’re given scene after scene of men and women losing their humanity and being overrun by data, information, and technology. Our hubris quakes at the thought of emotionless androids wreaking havoc and, ultimately, genocide on the world as we know it. For as much as we love technology, we fear it. There’s a sense within us that trembles at the seemingly unlimited capacity and ability it affords us. Nearly everything we do now is influenced in some way by technology, such that it’s hard to escape it. In fact, tech-free oases are real places for which you can schedule appointments and visits, almost like booking a hotel, sans WiFi and all the normal hotel amenities.
But for as much as we fear technology, we love it. No, we lust after it. Just look at the booming consumer technology market ever since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. To be sure, this mindset existed before Jobs’ famous keynote, but ever since January 9, 2007, an insatiable need for the newest technological advancement became normative in the human psyche. Wanting an iPhone 7 as you hold an iPhone 6 in your hands isn’t seen as materialistic anymore, that’s normal. Technology has become part of our fashion and identity. We locate our status by what phone we use or watch we wear, and this identifies us in society as a person. Technology says a lot about us, informing the world how reputable we are.
But even more than what technology says about us, we love what technology can say for us. We hide behind our emails and play the cavalier, forgetting the person — the soul — on the other end. Our courage knows no bounds in a technological world that doesn’t know them either. Anonymity is easy and so is slander, and all manner of “evil speaking,” as our King James brethren would say. It’s so easy to call into question the manner, motives, and methods of those we’ve never met. “Online personas” are an epidemic, as users crave a corner of the increasingly-crowded spotlight. These personas, these avatars allow for the proliferation hate-speech and scandalmongers. They lie in wait, looking for opportunities in which to unsheathe the sword of anonymity and strike a fatal blow at the soul of the opposite user, caring not for their spirit and disregarding their person.
One of the bigger movements of the last few years is that to end bullying. It’s made to feel as a new problem in schools across America, but bullying has always existed to certain degrees. It’s just that it’s far easier to tyrannize and torment those deemed weaker in a world that rises and falls on 140-characters.
You might be wondering what I’m trying to say by all this. There’s a sense in which I’m the worst hypocrite in writing this, as I’m a bona fide tech-addict in my own right. I’m not afraid to admit that I depend on technology, perhaps too much at times. There are days when I have to make a conscious decision to not pick up my phone. I know that. I’m preaching to myself, here. I’m on Twitter a lot, daily. Over the course of my time on the platform, it’s safe to say that I’ve thought of leaving it altogether 20-odd times, or more. Social media plays a big part of my life. And while that’s almost imperative in today’s culture, don’t forget to put down your phone. Don’t lose your humanity. Don’t lose your ability to really speak to people, not at them. Don’t forget that life doesn’t exist and that your ministry doesn’t reside in bits and bytes but in people.
The brokenness of humanity shouldn’t scare us away to our phones but should burden us to bring the gospel there too. Just as Jesus entered our mess to shine a light on his grace, we’ve been called to the world’s mess to reflect his mercy. And this isn’t done if our primary focus is for followers over disciples.
I’m resolving to myself to make this a habit — to put down my device and minister to those around me. Neglecting those God has put in your daily life for the sake of interacting with those we’ve never met is not what God intended. Iron sharpening iron happens best when both parties are in close contact with each other. (Prv 27:17) Don’t forget the people around you. Don’t lose your humanity in an age of technology.