Cal Newport. He’s an influential writer and researcher whose name is getting more and more popular. He is someone who you should at least be familiar with when you hear people talking about him or his works. He is most widely known as the author of Deep Work where he passionately makes the case that to accomplish the best work we can we must limit our distractions. Now, his newest title is about taking the next step to limiting the biggest distraction in our lives right now—our phones.
Here is an excerpt from a recent article that interacts more deeply with Newport’s newest book:
Newport’s case against digital maximalism is based on a familiar but important observation—many tech users feel anxious, distracted, and frustrated, but seem unable to do much about it. As he writes:
“The source of our unease . . . becomes visible only when confronting the thicker reality of how these technologies as a whole have managed to expand beyond the minor roles for which we initially adopted them. Increasingly, they dictate how we behave and how we feel, and somehow coerce us to use them more than we think is healthy, often at the expense of other activities we find more valuable. What’s making us uncomfortable, in other words, is this feeling of losing control—a feeling that instantiates itself in a dozen different ways each day, such as when we tune out with our phone during our child’s bath time, or lose our ability to enjoy a nice moment without a frantic urge to document it for a virtual audience.” (8)
If you see yourself in this paragraph, take a number and get in line behind me. Many of us know painfully well what it’s like to feel that our digital habits don’t even help or entertain us; they just exist, immovable, swallowing up time and attention as quickly and mysteriously as vanishing Christmas money . . .
In a world that is flooded with technology, including the technology that you’re using right now to graciously read this blog post, we need to learn how to steward our devices more faithfully. If the secular world is seeing a growing need for this, how much more so should the Christian world? In a recent survey, I saw that the average teenager spends 8-9 hours online every day. Seeing our youth up close, there are times when I think that number is too low. Newport has introduced his newest book at a time we need it most. I highly recommend you taking a look at it and the rest of this blog here.
The post is orignally from Kevin DeYoung’s blog hosted by The Gospel Coalition. DeYoung appears to have been reading Senator Ben Sasse’s new book Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How To Heal which is what lead him to re-post some of Sasse’s thoughts. These were so helpful for me to think about for my own home which made me think that you might find these helpful as well.
1. Your thousandth social media friend won’t make you any happier. Your fourth real real friend will.
2. Uninterrupted time is life’s most valuable limited resource.
3. Most news isn’t news.
4. Envy isn’t good therapy. Rage isn’t good therapy. Working out is good therapy.
5. Do something now you’ll want to talk about at the dinner table tonight.
6. Political addicts are weird. (And there aren’t that many of them. They’re just loud.)
7A. I’d rather be with the people I’m with right now than with the people I’m not with.
7B. If #7A isn’t true, then spend more time with the right people.
8. Develop the right addictions. (Another word for addictions is habits. Habits determine character.)
9. Not every bad thing in the world requires a response from you.
10. Not every mean thing said to you requires you to acknowledge it.
11. You’re not omniscient. Don’t assume your bubble of information is the whole story.
12. You’re not omnipotent. Taking in bad news you can’t do anything about doesn’t help anyone.
13. Sports Twitter is infinitely better than political Twitter.
14. Lots more social media is fake bots than social media companies admit.
15. The little old lady on your block probably has an important unmet need today.
16. Social media isn’t great for deep stuff. It’s great for humor. Let’s be known as a family that laughs hard. (p. 199)
I am no technology expert nor am I a cultural expert but merely a mailman delivering documents from the experts. Nevertheless, this is an article, and a topic, that we need to heed. We should never do something just because the masses are doing it as well. How would you react if I suggested the following:
Students should not have a phone until they can drive. OR Students should not have a smartphone until college.
We believe in Christian freedom but can our resolve for Christian freedom with technology actually enslave us? I wonder how many of us, even myself, read the comments of this article and shrink back from it. Here is an excerpt:
Some of the people who built video programs are now horrified by how many places a child can now watch a video.
Asked about limiting screen time for children, Hunter Walk, a venture capitalist who for years directed product for YouTube at Google, sent a photo of a potty training toilet with an iPad attached and wrote: "Hashtag 'products we didn't buy'." Athena Chavarria, who worked as an executive assistant at Facebook and is now at Mark Zuckerberg's philanthropic arm, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, said: "I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children." Ms Chavarria did not let her children have cellphones until high school, and even now bans phone use in the car and severely limits it at home.
She said she lives by the mantra that the last child in the class to get a phone wins. Her daughter did not get a phone until she started ninth grade.
"Other parents are like, 'Aren't you worried you don't know where your kids are when you can't find them?'," Ms Chavarria said. "And I'm like, 'No, I do not need to know where my kids are every second of the day'." For longtime tech leaders, watching how the tools they built affect their children has felt like a reckoning on their life and work.
Paul is clear in Romans 1 - if we don’t worship the one true Creator God, we will worship the creation. One way that idolatry is manifested today is in the secular search for eternal life - not found through faith in Jesus Christ, but through faith in technology. Technology leaders in America are on the hunt for a cure for death, and they are willing to sacrifice huge amounts of money to find the secret elixer that will allow them to live forever, according to Jacob Banas, author of “Disrupting the Reaper: Tech Titans’ Quest for Immortality Rages Forward.” Banas references an article about Christianity in Silicon Valley that observes, “Traditional religion in the Bay Area is being replaced with another sort of faith, a belief in the power of technology and science to save humanity.” Banas comments, “Combine this new governing philosophy (what others have called a “religion of technology“) with leaders who are too young to find peace in the concept of death and who haven’t experienced the kinds of traumas that might inoculate them against some of that fear? You get a perfect storm of longevity obsession.”
God tells us that He has set eternity in the hearts of mankind (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Made in his image, and created with a soul that will never die, Christians understand that the desire to live forever is not wrong. The problem is that because of Adam’s sin, death has entered the world. There is no escaping the grim reaper, for “it has been appointed for the die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Every single person will live forever, in a body - either in eternal joy on a new earth, or eternal misery in hell. What determines our destiny? The way we respond to Jesus Christ in this relatively short life. If you have friends that long to live forever, if you have friends that put their hope in technology to give them eternal life, point them to the only Savior from idolatry, the only giver of true life, Jesus the Son of God.
There is no doubt that students are facing a world of trials in today’s world but one of the more common trials is the presence of bullying on social media. I have learned more and more about the presence of bullying on social media the more I have heard from our students. To be sure, we need to constantly ask our children about their presence on social media. Much of the social lives of youth today happen on the Internet which is hidden from plain sight of parents and mentors. The following is a brief excerpt of this article from The Atlantic:
No app is more integral to teens’ social lives than Instagram. While Millennials relied on Facebook to navigate high school and college, connect with friends, and express themselves online, Gen Z’s networks exist almost entirely on Instagram. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens use the platform, which now has more than 1 billion monthly users. Instagram allows teens to chat with people they know, meet new people, stay in touch with friends from camp or sports, and bond by sharing photos or having discussions.
But when those friendships go south, the app can become a portal of pain. According to a recent Pew survey, 59 percent of teens have been bullied online, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a nonprofit anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds experience bullying specifically on Instagram. “Instagram is a good place sometimes,” said Riley, a 14-year-old who, like most kids in this story, asked to be referred to by her first name only, “but there’s a lot of drama, bullying, and gossip to go along with it.”
Teenagers have always been cruel to one another. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do so. The velocity and size of the distribution mechanism allow rude comments or harassing images to go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram makes it easy to set up new, anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, many interactions on the app are hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of whom don’t understand the platform’s intricacies.
For the full article, click here.
The following is a greater list of links to articles and blog posts about Youth Culture for the month of October. Each month, I do my best to send out an email to parents about what is going on in youth culture. In order for the emails to be shorter and more concise, I am adding a more exhaustive list to the blog so that they can be more accessible.
The following are articles that are concerned with the trends and opinions of youth culture at the moment. Not every article is a endorsement of opinion but rather there will be several statements in many that I disagree with. The point for this list is NOT to promote a certain opinion (which other blog posts are for) but rather to give you a feel for what is going on in our children’s lives and their culture. This is to promote further discussion in our church body about how the gospel can change our children and their culture.
A fellow youth worker in Mississippi sent me this article earlier this week about selfies. Naturally, I had my gracious wife read me "the important parts" so that I could digest it on my own in quicker time. Even from her brief skims and my bad listening, this was a confirmation of what we already knew.
The following is a brief part of the conclusion to the study about selfie and young women. "This is the first study to show experimentally that selfie posting on social media is harmful in terms of young women’s mood and self-image. Being able to retouch or modify their photo did not result in women feeling better about themselves after posting a selfie to social media. Future research should look at the longer-term effects of posting photos of oneself on social media, which is an increasingly common aspect of contemporary media use."
Read the about the study here. Warning: this is not for the weary readers (aka it's long but you can skim it for the "good stuff").
The following video is a re-post from The Gospel Coalition website that features Russell Moore, Scott Sauls (PCA), and Trevin Wax in a discussion about whether Christian parents should give their children a smartphone. These discussions can help us think about things that we normally do not think about and help us come to our own wise conclusions about what is most fitting for our children.