Technology is apart of our lives like never before. We now carry in our pockets the ability to watch breaking news from around the world, see Aunt Erma’s cat in Alabama, or share pictures of our culinary adventures on Instagram. While this technology is incredible, it can be a mixed blessing.
The printing press is kid stuff in comparison to Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. The saints would have swooned at the thought of such powerful tools. Truth can be transmitted to thousands, even millions, instantaneously (so can a lot of evil things, too, sadly).
I use social social media every day at work to communicate the Culture of Life, and I’m always amazed at how quickly things can spread.
Of course, social media can also turn you into a zombie and cause you to miss the most beautiful moments in life (If you want a perfect example, read the column I wrote about a father ignoring his child at the park). And it can cause you to miss the most important thing of all—other people, made in the image of God.
It is interesting to note that meals used to be an opportunity of communion and close sharing between friends and family—that’s one reason Our Lord instituted the Mass during a meal. Meals were a unique opportunity to talk and to communicate, to share ourselves over food.
But now, meals are anything but an intimate. They are an excuse to take pictures of your food and share them online, an opportunity to check your newsfeed, or LOL at someone’s meme. Go to any restaurant and you will see couples, friends, and entire families staring at small flickering screens rather than each other.
It’s easy to complain about how distracted everyone is, it’s another thing to fight distraction in your own life. But for the Catholic Gentleman, fighting distraction is not optional. Our Lord put us here for a distinct purpose, and he has called us to be saints. No one ever became a saint by staring at his phone. Here are three simple rules for being a gentleman with technology.
- Never ignore other people – If other people are with you, don’t play on your phone. If you have to, shut it off or turn it to silent. Relationships are that important. Be present to the other person and attentive to their desires and needs, and give the gift of your attention. If it is hard to pay attention to others (which it often is), offer it up as a sacrifice. Whatever you do, don’t ignore another human being—an image bearer of God—for a piece of technology.
- Be present – If the saints were anything, they were aware. They were mindful of God’s presence, and they saw his glory in the faces of others and in the beauty of nature. You should be too. The heavens do declare the glory of God, as does every blade of grass, but if you are too busy worrying about what you are missing on Facebook, you are going to miss out on countless graces from God. At best, you will be a mediocre Christian who might get to heaven. You certainly won’t be a saint. Don’t miss the glories of a beautiful day, or drown the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit with notification sounds.
- Be in control – We must be the master of technology—it should never master us. This holds true for anything in life, but especially of those things which most draw our attention away from Christ and others. If you have to, be radical about it. If Facebook is consuming your life, take a fast (my wife and I frequently fast from Facebook for Lent). Even better, consider giving it up completely. Always remember that you don’t need any social media, even though you may feel like it. Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” Pluck out Twitter, or any other profile, if it is keeping you from what is truly important.
Never stop fighting the pull to distraction. Technology isn’t going away any time soon. If anything, it is becoming more deeply ingrained our lives every day. Determine, choose, to keep it under control.
What technology do you find most distracting? How do you fight distractions in your life? Leave your answer in the comments.