It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge:
Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it dull my intellect? Is it making me lazy or entitled?Andrew McDiarmid, “Our Technology Can Glorify God. Here’s How.” at Breakpoint (July 17, 2020)
Here’s a cheat sheet: The Babylon Bee can tell you when Alexa has gotten out of hand in your life:
Alexa Offers To Lead Family Prayer After No One Else Volunteers
HORTON, ND—It was time to eat dinner at the Kendall household and Gregory Kendall, who had just come home from a long day selling auto parts, was in no mood to pray.
“Would anyone else like to pray?” he asked his family, but he was met with blank stares, his children not jumping at the chance to pray for the meal. Gregory looked at his wife, Roberta and she returned a look that said “not today.”
Finally, the Kendalls’ Amazon Echo device offered to lead the prayer after the always-listening device determined the awkward silence was probably never going to end until someone stepped up to bless the food. (August 6, 2018)
The prayer Alexa offers is really something else and the satire ends with Gregory Kendall considering the possibility that Alexa isn’t saved…
Okay, so it’s not that bad yet where you live? Still, McDiarmid warns,
It’s also problematic to trust Big Tech with your personal information quests. They do not have your best interests at heart and have been known to misuse your privacy and personal data for financial gain. Doing God’s work in your life requires diligence, persistence, and discernment, qualities that could be negatively affected by excessive use of a digital assistant.Andrew McDiarmid, “Our Technology Can Glorify God. Here’s How.” at Breakpoint (July 17, 2020)
Violations of privacy by government, corporations, and criminals are a serious issue. Both government and business monitor our communications on social media. Even Twitter’s elite Blue Check marks were hacked recently. Your tablet could be telling people where you are and you might not even know. Last year, Google was found to be gathering identifying data on tens of millions of Americans in 21 states who use the Ascension health care system without doctors or patients knowing or giving consent. Do you really want all these movers and shakers knowing the details of your personal life?
Getting free isn’t easy, McDiarmid warns:
It will take a trained mind to carefully think through your tech options and decide what to use and what to skip. Train yourself to look past the flashy advertising. Resist the fear of missing out. By all means use tech to help you accomplish your goals but set boundaries between you and your tech and stay in charge.Andrew McDiarmid, “Our Technology Can Glorify God. Here’s How.” at Breakpoint (July 17, 2020)
Here are two things most of us can do to start: First, we should pay attention when we hear about big data grabs and breaches of data security, or apparent politically driven censorship by big social media companies. Could this kind of thing affect us? If we think not, do we know why not? Or is that just wishful thinking on our part?
It’s also a good idea to ask a qualified computer technician how a personal system can be made more secure. If you choose that route, be prepared for a possible shock. Many people are surprised to discover how vulnerable they are, in ways they never expected to be. They may have thousands of items of spyware on their system. They may have configured their social media in such a way that they are easy targets for harassment. They may discover that their banking activities are not secure or that their backup system would not really protect them from a serious data loss. Or that they are using an unsecured network which is easy to penetrate.
Better to know now when we can choose to do something. Given that we are already taking charge of our internet use, we can—as McDiarmid suggests—scrutinize the new technologies that we are urged to adopt with more confidence.
You may also enjoy these articles by Andrew McDiarmid:
Beyond the Google search. Today’s search technology may provide us with an “answer” we did not work for and won’t remember.
No thanks, Google, I’ve got this! Here are some human solutions to Google’s “pain points,” no tech required.