Constantly Buzzed: Teens & Technology

As the school year wraps up, I’m reminded of my youth pastor days. Here’s a repost from 2009. 

I’m typing this blog from my laptop while text messaging, checking my email, listening to my Ipod, updating my Twitter and sipping an iced mocha. I’m totally wired and buzzed — both from caffeine and all the electrical cords juicing all my gadgets. Just another over-stimulated day in the “technopolis” of the 21st century world.

As I wrap up another year of high school ministry one thing is for certain: teenagers are too busy, involved in too many things, trying to please too many people—all this while trapped in a fast-paced, over-stimulated world of hypertechnology and seeing no easy way out of this vast web of over-connectivity.

I’m researching the power of culture and media technology in preparation for two messages I’m giving this weekend to senior high students at a missions retreat. I’m speaking on the topic of “Discipleship of the Mind” based on the popular movie trilogy, “The Matrix.” The book I’m reading is A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture by Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor. Here’s some insights from the chapter I’m currently reading.

Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Age of Access, notes, “The techno gurus promised us that instant access would lighten our loads and give us back more time. Is it possible, instead, that the nanosecond culture is enslaving us in a web of ever-accelerating connections from which there seems to be no escape?” technology_and_your_teen

He mentions the rising number of boys being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the U. S., saying, “Is it any wonder? If a child grows up in an environment surrounded by the fast pace of television, video games, computers and constant media stimulation, chances are that his neural development will condition to a short attention span.”

Sadly, parents have often proven little help in this arena. Newsweek reported that “millions of parents around the country say their lives have become a frantic rush in the minivan from school to soccer to piano lessons and then hours of homework. But they’re trapped, afraid to slow down because any blank space in the family calendar could mean their offspring won’t have the resumes to earn thick letters from Harvard—and big bucks forever after.”

Yet, as our calendars get fuller and fuller, our souls grow emptier and emptier. The wisdom of Jesus is proven again: “What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world (the electronic world included) but lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36). Our souls long for silence, inner peace, temporary disconnection from the technological in order to momentarily reconnect to the spiritual.

We are spiritual beings designed with spiritual appetites and thirsts that TV or Twitter cannot quench. We owe it to the more hidden places of our being—those quieter areas that will not show themselves on a digital screen—to begin listening to the deeper yearnings for escape, solitude, and renewal. I suspect alone-with-godthat if we did take an internal Holiday of the soul, visiting those exotic far off, neglected areas of our inner being, while leaving our electronic gadgets behind, we just might encounter the God who is unseen—the God who reveals himself in the wilderness, and speaks in “the still, soft whisper.”

“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the LORD said to him. Then the LORD passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the LORD was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

“Yet Jesus often withdrew to lonely places for prayer” (Luke 5:16).

QUESTIONS:

How do you escape the constant buzz of the 21st century technopolis?

How do you practice Jesus’ habit of retreat and solitude amidst your busy schedules?  How do you intentionally unplug?

How do we help hyper-connected teenagers disconnect for their own “internal Holiday of the soul”?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Before I begin, I feel I should reveal a bit about myself: I’m 17, from the UK, and both my parents are aetheists. Not just “there might be God,” but a total “there is nothing.” But I don’t take after them much.

    I think that as technology advances for what is popularly deemed as “human convenience,” it has diminished our sense of individualism. How can someone my age fit in without the latest iPhone, for example? And so everyone rushed out to buy one, and when they do, they lose any sense of who they are, because, after all, they have all become the same.

    I also think that people are turning away from faith. They want answers, and they want them now. People are beginning to grow frustrated if things aren’t instant, aren’t up-to-date, and that both saddens and irritates me. It saddens me because if people can no longer accept something without this “evidence,” then what kind of a future is there for us? One with nanosecond technology, where anything and everything is available in the blink of an eye. And yet, the nature of material possessions is that one will always want more. Always want the latest, the newest, something shinier or faster or something that can do more.

    So, I know this comment has turned into something of a philosophical rant from an unlikely source, but strangely this felt like the one place I could let loose my pent-up frustration with the direction society is taking. If a person cannot stop, cannot listen to their heart and their soul for just one moment, then what really separates us from the machines we are beginning to rely so heavily upon?

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