Managing the Monster

Does your cell phone rule you? Or are you Lord of the Laptop?

A dramatic change has overtaken our culture in the last ten years. Whether you like it or not, it seems electronics are glued to people everywhere. Or rather, we are glued to them. iPhones & Blackberries are pulled from the pocket every few moments during dinner conversations; family gatherings are disrupted by quick stops to the kitchen computer for an email check or a Google search; and laptops have all but replaced coffee dates at the caffeine bar of choice. Just a few days ago I sat in a Starbucks off of 5th Avenue in Lower Manhattan and every single person was on a laptop or reading from a PDA. While my friend and I managed a few spartan words between each other, we eventually joined the masses and pulled out our mobile phones to check email, texts, voice mail, FaecBook, and Twitter.

The question is, what did we do before them?

While I could wax eloquent like the miserable but charming post-modernist Frank Navasky from You’ve Got Mail (Meg Ryan’s character’s boyfriend), convincing you I’m actually writing this from an Olympia Report Deluxe Electric typewriter, I’m not, nor am I going to. That’s idealism. And it’s pointless. Unless you want to become Amish. I’m on my 21″ iMac, and my iPhone 3GS is in comfortably in my jean’s pocket. And I’m proud of it. But the question remains, have we forgotten how to think for ourselves without the interweb? Can we define who the Soviets were without the use of a search engine? And better still, can we still carry on a conversation with other carbon-based life forms in the flesh without texting them to initiate the dialog?

Ultimately, the question is, “What are you doing to rule the beast?” As a guy who loves technology, and openly embraces its profound positive affects on my life, I’ve had to come face to face with the fact that I wasn’t doing enough to rule over it, and need to be ever vigilant of the monster. A 40-day media fast taught me a lot: making sure to keep my computer out of my home a few days a week; limiting my time on my iPhone for things other than phone calls (which I hate talking on the phone); and making sure I’m spending time staring at my wife and childrens’ faces rather than a flat, lifeless screen.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. If anything, its role in our lives will only increase. And rightfully so. We become more efficient, more informed, and more connected, allowing us to reach Kingdom objectives more quickly than any time in history. That’s because technology is God’s invention, not ours. But making sure the animal stays in its cage can be more challenging than we might think.

What are you doing to keep the monster at bay? Care to share some of your tips with us?

  • Nathan

    I see technology as a tool, which can be used to create and destroy. Your post resonates with this and should remind all of us to be ever vigilant so we don’t lose control.

    thanks,
    Nathan

    • Great point, Nathan. Isn’t it interesting how anything powerful in terms of creating good can also be used to destroy it?

  • Billy.J

    Great post Christopher! I do check my email every hour or two, but being almost fourteen, I don’t have a phone quite yet. And with my lack of a large number of friends, my phone wouldn’t be a constant use. I still want on,e iPhone preferably. But like the previous poster stated,technology is a tool, and your right, it was created by God for our use, but making sure it doesn’t control us is certainly a challenge! Once again, great post dude,

    Billy. J

    • You’re welcome, dude! And when your books start selling a few million copies, you better have a plan in place to manage all those fans!

  • I’ve resorted to docking my phone on the charger during dinner and attempt to not pull it out when out with friends unless there is a moment when I can do it without being obnoxious.

    Another thing I’ve done is tried to post more photos from my phone in batches as opposed to as they happen. This does two things for me 1) less time uploading photos and 2) less time spent checking my phone to see who has replied or “liked” my content.

    Also I find myself posting more to twitter and less to Facebook because there are less follow ups from others on twitter and therefore less reasons for me to constantly check my notifications.

    I think people just need to be aware of those around them and if their friends/family aren’t phone people then spend more face time with them. If your friends don’t mind whipping out their phones too, then I don’t think there any harm in spending a few minutes sitting across from a friend and doing some social networking.

    • Great tips, Pete! thanks for sharing. I like the docking principle a lot. And being smart with uploading pics is very effective. I, too, focus mostly on Twitter; #fb if my best friend.

  • Allie

    This was a great post, and so true. Thank you so much Christopher!

  • I have to admit I am so guilty of this! I have been trying to be much better at it though lately. When I get put my phone upstairs in my room so that I am not constantly carrying it around with me. It has its own space and that is where it stays. When I go to the gym it stays in my locker.

    I’ve also put it somewhere that is not easily accessible when I am with my family or friends. I put it on the dining room table AWAY from everyone or in my purse.

    I have just started doing all of these things in the past 4 weeks or so and it’s gotten easier. It really can become a terrible addiction.

    I actually feel relief when It’s not constantly with me.

    • I hear that! “Distance” from the object is so key, isn’t it? Love you baby sister.

  • Hey, Bro! Nice post. I did a post a few years back about how technology and entertainment can pretty much consume any quite time we might have. Dangerous indeed. For quiet times are when we wrestle with important issues, tackle relationships, and listen for God.

    • I like that you identified what we *should* be using that time for. Very helpful.

  • Darcy F

    Chris – Thanks for this reminder. We struggled with this on a youth trip last year, discussing what is appropriate for the teens while they are away from home. It wasn’t “retreat” setting exactly, but it was out of state, and parents often give teens their phone for safety reasons/excuses. SO, where do we draw the line and how do we teach them to function in this modern world if we take it away? Tough stuff!

    • Darcy: good stuff. One of the things we just did on a recent advance with our college students is we gave the leader one cell phone for emergencies, and no one knew he had it. Everyone else was required to yield their cell phone before leaving on the trip. Our students actually LOVED not having their phones and being reliant on the “old school” system of using pay phones if needed.

  • Jason Clement

    Argh… had I been checking my iPhone more frequently, I wouldn’t be so late to the party! Now that my lovely bride is sporting a new iPhone, texting every second, I’m realizing how bad I am… I sit on my couch now, typing this on my iPhone while Trisha plays Disney Slider on hers and my boys and I play a game of Words against each other on thier iPod touches. We’re all out of control! Everytime I try to implement some self restraint, I stumble again. Ok, gotta go check Facebook and Twitter.

    Oh. God may have had a hand in the iPhone, but blackberries are of the devil! 😉

  • EaglesWings

    As i do not have a cell phone and i abhor talking on any phone, I dont really have a problem with a phone. But I contently find my self wanting to check the UG and my email, and when i think about it, i find myself disgusted at how much time I waste on electronic devices