Day: January 17, 2011

news of spirituality’s demise has been greatly exaggerated

“More and more people are noticing how their digital lives are inhibiting their face-to-face relationships.”

— Luke Gilkerson, ‘Family Unplugged – How technology disconnects us from deep relationships’

It’s a familiar refrain.

Two of the most common complaints Christians voice about contemporary information and communication technologies are:

  1. They foster skin-deep connections — with thousands of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ — in place of the genuine relationships face-to-face communication supposedly delivers.
  2. They teache everyone ‘continuous partial attention’ rather than full and focussed attention.

Maybe it’s just me, but this feels a bit like Life Was Better And We Were All More Godly In The Fifties reactionism.

And yet I’m in no hurry to endorse the equal and opposite adulation with which some greet every new technological development. (I fear the authors of The Church of Facebook may succumb to this.)

Of course technology can be harnessed to sidetrack us spiritually. And of course it makes certain particularly noxious distractions more readily available.

But even frequent abuse doesn’t render proper use impossible.

In fact, the very technology that creates the distractions is also providing us with some means to combat them — as for example with the incorporation of a Readability-style feature in the latest version of Safari or the promising programme Freedom.

I’m not trying to suggest that new developments in technology haven’t resulted in changes or that they should be above suspicion.

It’s just that from what I can see, most of the claims made about their effects tend to be overstated — for better and for worse. (For a cautious example of ‘better’ check out this and for ‘worse’ check this out).

In reality, things are just way more complicated.

Some of the complexity we’re experiencing is captured well by this recent article on Wired. It suggests that the rise of Twitter and Facebook is not destroying so much as relocating long-range analytical thought.

Just as with analytical thought, I feel news of spirituality’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.

I’d love to explore this further. But I’m not sure if anyone has done any sustained studies (based on more than anecdote and instinct).

Any suggestions?