Technology in Your Life and Home – Take Back Control
Note – the content below is covered in the second half of the video on this page
Do you control your technology?
Or does your technology control you?
Ask yourself this.
What do you do when . . .
You have to wait
When you are in the bathroom
When you are alone
Before you fall asleep at night
Do you spend quality time with yourself or God in these moments?
I believe we fill our emptiness and our silence with technology. This is akin to a spiritual struggle. Internet connected technology with screens represent a new kind of matter, a new family of technology. They are not tools. This is an illusion. Our phones, TVs, and computers, are not merely things. They have a will of their own.
A Perverse Incentive
A company can sell you technology at a loss, or even give it to you for free, because they know they can make more money using that technology to influence your behavior.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” -Ephesians 6:12
Temptation once lurked mostly in the back of our minds. Now it sits ever-present in our pockets.
The Encyclopedia Britannica online edition defines technology as the product of the application of knowledge to achieve practical goals in a reproducible way especially in the changing and manipulation of the human environment.
If we aren’t fully in control of our technology, then it will serve instead to change and manipulate us to achieve someone else’s goals in a reproducible way, rarely in line with our spiritual values.
Technology is Alcohol
At the time of writing this, I have a 3 month old son. We regularly have to tell him “No screens!” If we have him with us while we are watching TV, he can’t take his eyes off of it! That’s how effective screens are at captivating us.
I believe most of us are already addicted to technology. So are our children. It is too enticing to us, too helpful, too pleasurable.
The tricky thing is, technology is not rat poison. It won’t kill you. It’s not heroin either.
Technology is alcohol.
Technology can be addictive. It affects our moods. It’s everywhere, integrated into our society.
Like Noah’s Ark, it can be really really good, a tool of our salvation But it also has the capacity to mess with our lives, families, and our communities.
And there is no legal age. We have no laws and hardly any common sense about its healthy use.
Here’s the interesting thing about alcohol – it’s really quite good! Jesus miraculously made it at the wedding in Cana. Wine is what becomes the blood of Christ.
But alcohol also has the propensity to become destructive. Not on its own, but based on how we use it.
You are probably a technoholic. I know I am. And your kids probably are too.
Before we can begin to control technology in our lives we must first understand and look at our phones, tablets, computers, and TVs like we look at alcohol. We must realize that we already have an unhealthy relationship with them.
The bad news – there is no technoholics anonymous.
We have to view our technology the same way we view our passions. God gave them to us, but we misuse and misdirect them. We have to control technology the same way we control our passions.
It starts with prayer, confession, and the Life in Christ.
Fill your lives, and your children with these things, and it will reshape your relationship with technology.
How do we do that?
Step One – Subversion
We must use technology against itself.
We as Christians might forget it, but we are a subversive bunch. We kiss and label ourselves with the ultimate logo of subversion, the symbol of the greatest marketing campaign of all time:
The cross was an instrument of torture, judgement, humiliation, and execution.
Now it represents our salvation!
Here, we can make an interesting connection – the Cross and Noah’s Ark were both made out of wood, living matter that was cut down and used to create technology instrumental in our salvation.
Orthodox Christians are blessed with rich practice in subverting the time and space of this world for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. We fast, we hang icons, we tithe and give alms, we frequently attend services (long ones too!), and we wear the cross. Use these practices to inform and guide your technology use.
The Sanctification of Digital Space
When you sit in liturgy, do you ever look up, become entranced and at some point realize your neck hurts? It’s so easy to forget Christ in the dome! He is always there looking over us, blessing and judging. Here are a few practical ways to place Christ into the dome of your technological life:
- Use icons as wallpapers and screensavers – Literally mark your technology with spiritual reminders. Take pictures of the icons, frescoes, and mosaics in your church and use them in your technology.
- Put icons and crosses in parts of your house where you most commonly use technology. Might you use your television differently if there was an icon of Christ staring back at you from right beside the screen? What if you found yourself watching something very violent, sexual, or coarse and there beside those images was Christ? Do this in your children’s environments too.
- Prayer reminders – set an alarm every 3 hours to pray. By doing this your phone will become an instrument that encourages you to connect with God, not just your old high school acquaintances.
Step 2: Reset
Marketers are all paid by the view, click, and conversion. So it’s to their benefit to get you as many emails and notifications and to spend as long scrolling newsfeeds as possible.
Reset your notifications
Take the time right now, literally stop reading this, to go open your phone’s notification settings and turn off EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, other than calls and texts. I did this a few months ago and it seriously changed my life. I felt so free! Notifications are a key way your technology manipulates you and conditions your behaviors.
Evaluate and reset your app mix
What apps do you have on your devices? How many Orthodox apps or prayer apps do you have? How many games or shopping apps? Savagely delete frivolous things and apps that are time wasters. Let’s be honest, if you have Amazon, you will use it. If you have Youtube, you will use it.
Evaluate and reset your news feeds
We are what we eat – and it’s called a newsFEED for a reason. Does the content in your newsfeed reflect your values? Are you fed with what you want to eat? Is it healthy? Start unfollowing people! Stay friends but unfollow. Start following content producers that create content that is Godly, uplifting, helpful, and constructive.
Evaluate and reset your inbox
We subscribe to all kinds of things. Unsubscribe from all those shopping emails, newsletters, and what not that you don’t care about. Go out and subscribe only to the things that will refocus your mindset on what is valuable in your life. Daily scripture reading emails are great for this!
Lessons from Experience
Here is a rundown of some practical strategies I have seen work in my own life and have heard testament to from parents in my parish community.
Seriously. This works. Hide your tablets, hide your extra computers, hide the TV remote! You might even forget where they are, that’s a good problem to have! Turn on find my device apps you can control from your cell phone as a backup plan.
Limit to 1 TV
No one needs more than 1 TV in their household. That’s a fast judgement but I can’t tell you how much of an impact it makes to go down to just 1 TV. And if you can, put your only TV in your basement, so you have to go somewhere to watch it. This creates small barriers of entry to the activity that will discourage its abuse.
Do you need a tablet?
Some kids need a tablet for school and schools provide them. If this isn’t the case with you – consider if you really need a tablet? At the end of the day they are just phones with a bigger screen, and you already have a phone. Ditch your tablets! You probably only use them to waste time anyways.
Set up designated tech areas
Make it your family practice to only use computers and tablets on the main floor of your house. This removes all kinds of temptations to sneak extra media time and creates natural accountability to make sure your family is only accessing appropriate content.
Practice technology fasting
Wednesdays, Fridays, lent, any Church fasting period is a great time to fast from electronics. Of course you still need screens for work and school, but fast from games, shows, and social media. Lent is a great time to reset your family behavior. It will take your kids a few weeks to adapt to new ways to fill their time.
Plan quarterly refreshes
Plan opportunities to evaluate your own technology use and the patterns your family is developing. Reset as a family what you will try to avoid and what changes you will make.
1 minute rule
It sounds crazy, but if your kids insist on playing video games or watching a show, allocate a TINY amount for them every day. See if they will accept 1 minute, but don’t go over 10. And make them play or watch somewhere on the main floor of your house so you can help them wind down and keep to their time.
Jump to another session:
Session 2: – Current – Technology in Your Life and Home – Take Back Control
Note from the Author:
Hello! I’m Cooper Buss. A layman having (at the time of writing this) just completed my first year of a Master’s of Theology at the Antiochian House of Studies and a parishioner at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis.
Thinking about and studying technology from an Orthodox perspective is a passion of mine and the focus of my studies. I hope to create much more content of this type as time goes on. If you have any ideas, questions, or comments, please email me at email@example.com ! I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime – PLEASE share this content wherever you see fit and wherever you believe God could work some good through it.