You don’t have to compare the quiet contemplation of a rural monastery to the digitized chaos of a major city to conclude that our world saturated in mobile devices and screens may not be the healthiest environment for humans.
Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to consider a few big picture aspects of a rural monastery vs. life in a city surrounded by screens of all sizes.
Consider this, the monk who divides time between prayer and working with his hands is generally focused on one specific task at a time. While working with his hands, he may well be engaged in a simple prayer as well.
The person in the city is surrounded by screens and has hundreds of opportunities for distraction and engagement. There are hundreds, if not thousands of attempts to catch his attention daily, and perhaps he gives in to a few and wastes some time. Then he feels badly about it, gets back to his work, and tries to forge ahead before succumbing again to another distraction.
True, we could be more connected with friends and family and colleagues by technology, but those technology networks are also a thousand points of entry for distractions, products, and who knows what else.
It’s not that we can’t use technology well. It’s that technology isn’t really designed to be used for our health and well-being, to say nothing of the impact of its distractions on spiritual vitality. It’s designed to sell us stuff and to capture our attention at every turn. Sure, you get the fringe benefit of connecting with people you love, but that’s not why the technology is there.
If technology only served to connect you with people you love and to make you healthier, then most of the technology around you would vanish.
I have been immersed in technology because of my work in publishing, and it is for good or ill. At this point in my life, I view technology is a kind of necessary evil that I am trying to manage well. In so many ways the screens in my life have a negative impact, but not entirely negative. Each day I am trying to mitigate the negative aspects and to build on the positive possibilities.
I do know that unchecked and used without awareness, technology today is generally a net negative. I’m hoping that with greater awareness and intention, technology can reach a kind of neutral ground where it is used with limits and restraint so that enough good can result in order to balance out its many possibilities for negativity and addiction.
I’m still in the early stages of this process, but I wanted to put some words down now. I didn’t want to post some findings or conclusions in the future as if they were the result of a brief period of consideration and study.
Rather, I’m hoping to gradually share my journey with technology and its impact on spirituality. I hope you can share in this process when possible so that you can use technology with greater intention and awareness.