By Matthew Joils
The world at my fingertips! How did anyone ever do without the internet?
It is a vast, vibrant marketplace of ideas, goods and services, where everything is just a click away.
But this online freedom is perhaps not so liberating given how many hours I spend with it.
A web-connected screen is my work station, my relaxation device, a social hub, and a tool for countless tasks.
My dependence on technology is disconcerting. I find it hard to entertain myself without electronics. Downtime? Spotify. Spare minute? Facebook. Bored? The Useless Web. I am almost unable to turn on my computer without going online. When I actually need to do something using the internet, I am instantly distracted. It has taken over my life.
When my laptop is my first port of call for so many of my needs, it's a wonder I don't have rectangular eyes!
I laugh at my flatmate's fascination with Microsoft 10's new artificial intelligence, Cortana, but given how much time I spend on Facebook instead of real people it's no wonder I'm socially awkward.
When did I exchange real human interaction for scrolling through statuses without stopping to read them?
How many evenings have I spent in solitary silence with someone as we sat separately surfing the net?
Surely social media is about as good for us as fast food.
To be fair, I have friends and family around the world who I wouldn't keep in contact with without the web. Nor would I get to know what some more local friends think about a whole raft of interesting things, let alone when their birthdays are. But the internet promises the moon when it comes to human interaction- it makes promises it can't keep.
Social media, in and of itself, won't satisfy my social cravings.
However, used wisely, it can return to its rightful place as a tool.
Idol and idle
We all let things get out of balance. Right now I feel consumed by a virtual world. Sometimes I make another person or an achievement the centre of my world. And if it feels like there's something wrong – it's because there is.
We are all created by God. We are all designed for relationship with Him, to love Him and bask in the joy of the goodness of His character and the way He wants us to live.
He deserves the core of our being. He is the one we are meant to live for. But our foolish hearts keep running away, looking for ways to serve ourselves.
God is perfectly good and fair. He judges without injustice, and we have earned God's wrath.
Yet He is also merciful and loving. He put the punishment we deserve on His Son, Jesus. Jesus graciously endured death, the punishment for sin, in our place. He made a way for us to be brought back into a right relationship with God.
I will either come back to Him or continue chasing my woefully misguided desires.
An analogue revolution
I want to extend my shortened attention span telescopically. I want to learn how to be creative in my relaxation. I want to rediscover what I enjoyed before I had a laptop and a smart phone, what I did when the T.V. was off.
I will need to develop patience. I will need to persevere. I will need to remind myself to appreciate the simpler things in life, because I will forget this dissatisfaction with the shiny silver image of the internet.
I will need to dust off my social skills. After I left school, making friends wasn't so easy. I suspect it takes a bit more time than I have been spending on it. Perhaps if I'm not online so much I will put more effort into making, having and keeping friends.
But what will I do in the spare hours, when I need to relax, recuperate, and rest my weary mind?
I have a wealth of resources for whiling away my alone time. I have a cupboard full of baking paraphernalia, a pile of paper paired with a pack of pens, a boatload of books, a basket of knitting and a garden that must be missing me.
But better yet, I need to come back to spend time with the God who fulfils me. I need to spend time reading His great story, the Bible, and letting it shape me. I will seek to serve Him as I care for others above myself, in action and in prayer.
Instead of seeking myself, I need to love and serve Him.•