Tag Archives: social interaction

Digital Servants: Candidates for Spiritual Discipline

Spiritual disciplines aren’t necessarily about giving up evil practices. They deal more with disciplining ourselves to control the neutral or even good things in our lives.

Food is not only enjoyable but necessary. So is our need for social interaction.

But just as we can overeat, we can overindulge in the time we spend with our digital devices.

We gain too much weight, not only from overeating, but also from eating the wrong kinds of food like refined sugar and trans fats.

We can spend time with the wrong kinds of digital input like pornography, but we can also waste time with gossipy items on celebrities.

In my case, I’m inclined to overdose on news items. In the hyper charged political climate we live in, I can spend hours following rabbit trails about our political leaders and their outrageous antics.

I try to limit the number of times I enter internet space. The early morning tends to be my most productive time for writing, so except for checking the weather, I ignore the internet, including emails. Than, after a few hours of writing, I break for exercise and checking the news on my iPad.

Unless I’m waiting for something urgent, I wait for afternoon to check emails, scanning for important items that may need a response, and deleting junk stuff. The more important reading I usually save until later in the day, when I feel I’ve accomplished more worthwhile tasks.

Obviously, if communication is a regular part of your job, or you are a parent of young children, or you work in certain kinds of employment, your routine will differ.

The point is to discipline ourselves to use our devices at proper times of our choosing. They are helpful servants but atrocious masters.

Texting and Sharing

“I’d rather leave text messages. It’s quicker than talking to someone on the phone,” the young woman told me. Text messages are appropriate in certain situations. They’re like the old family bulletin board, a way to offer fast updates on location and plans.

In addition, social media like Facebook allow a quick way to keep up with friends. They also can act as instant idea exchanges.

The problem with these communication tools is their misuse. Compare today’s social media explosion with the beginning of the television age. Television allowed in-home entertainment. Some said when TV first appeared that it might bring families closer together as they watched programs in the family living room. It brought educational material to young children. It created instant news and the twenty-four hour news cycle.

On the other hand, television when overused encourages obesity and the couch potato syndrome. Used as a baby sitter, it may bring unsuitable material to children and replace valuable interaction between the child and adults. Politics risks being ruled by the slick sound byte rather than the thoughtful weighing of opinions.

Social media becomes harmful if it completely replaces face-to-face interaction. It’s like watching the movie rather than reading the book. A movie can be powerful but seldom can it bring all the nuances, ideas, and character development of a book. I doubt that sharing one’s thoughts with a friend in the same physical space can be replicated, even with the marvels of Skype.