Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I am an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in our personal lives and in our schools. I am not a Luddite.
Nevertheless, I also share the conviction that technology, like many good things in our lives, can become an obsession and a cruel master. Any addiction, even to good things, is harmful and unbiblical whether it is sex, food, work, or technology.
I recently came across a beautifully written article by John Freeman in the Wall Street Journal. You can read the entire article here. If the link is broken, you can access the article in PDF format here.
Because the article is copyrighted I will not post it here but I am providing a short excerpt with the hope that you will read the entire article.
Not So Fast (August 29, 2009) WSJ Online
… We will die, that much is certain; and everyone we have ever loved and cared about will die, too, sometimes—heartbreakingly—before us. Being someone else, traveling the world, making new friends gives us a temporary reprieve from this knowledge, which is spared most of the animal kingdom. Busyness—or the simulated busyness of email addiction—numbs the pain of this awareness, but it can never totally submerge it. Given that our days are limited, our hours precious, we have to decide what we want to do, what we want to say, what and who we care about, and how we want to allocate our time to these things within the limits that do not and cannot change. In short, we need to slow down.
Our society does not often tell us this. Progress, since the dawn of the Industrial Age, is supposed to be a linear upward progression; graphs with upward slopes are a good sign. Processing speeds are always getting faster; broadband now makes dial-up seem like traveling by horse and buggy. Growth is eternal. But only two things grow indefinitely or have indefinite growth firmly ensconced at the heart of their being: cancer and the corporation. For everything else, especially in nature, the consuming fires eventually come and force a starting over.
The ultimate form of progress, however, is learning to decide what is working and what is not; and working at this pace, emailing at this frantic rate, is pleasing very few of us. It is encroaching on parts of our lives that should be separate or sacred, altering our minds and our ability to know our world, encouraging a further distancing from our bodies and our natures and our communities. We can change this; we have to change it. Of course email is good for many things; that has never been in dispute. But we need to learn to use it far more sparingly, with far less dependency, if we are to gain control of our lives.
In the past two decades, we have witnessed one of the greatest breakdowns of the barrier between our work and personal lives since the notion of leisure time emerged in Victorian Britain as a result of the Industrial Age. It has put us under great physical and mental strain, altering our brain chemistry and daily needs. It has isolated us from the people with whom we live, siphoning us away from real-world places where we gather. It has encouraged flotillas of unnecessary jabbering, making it difficult to tell signal from noise. It has made it more difficult to read slowly and enjoy it, hastening the already declining rates of literacy. It has made it harder to listen and mean it, to be idle and not fidget. This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?
If we are to step off this hurtling machine, we must reassert principles that have been lost in the blur. It is time to launch a manifesto for a slow communication movement, a push back against the machines and the forces that encourage us to remain connected to them. Many of the values of the Internet are social improvements—it can be a great platform for solidarity, it rewards curiosity, it enables convenience. This is not the manifesto of a Luddite, this is a human manifesto. If the technology is to be used for the betterment of human life, we must reassert that the Internet and its virtual information space is not a world unto itself but a supplement to our existing world, where the following three statements are self-evident …