Technology and Loneliness


(David Whitaker) #1

I work in IT and specifically as a customer support specialist. My job is all about communication (VoIP), but the drawback is that I work from home… it seemed great at first, but now I’ve found myself in a weird situation where I live in a different state from all of my coworkers, I struggle to make friends and really don’t relate over the phone very well.
Much like the problem of social media, I’m finding that the technology of connectivity is causing me to feel more isolated than the lack thereof…
Is technology actually bringing people together? Is it driving us apart? Is there any Biblical wisdom as to the role technology should play in our lives?


Smartphones
(SeanO) #2

@David_Whitaker Hey David, praying that the Lord might provide some good community for you as you seek to be in fellowship with believers. I can see how working at home would tend to isolate you from contact with people. Regarding Biblical wisdom, I think one thing that comes to my mind is that God created us to rule the earth - using our intelligence and ingenuity. Part of the way we express God’s image is by developing civilization, culture and technology. And in that sense technology is an outworking of the image of God in us.

But where things go wrong is when technology goes from being a tool to being a tyrant. God created us for community - Eve was created because it was not good for man to be alone. We are created to need one another and to flourish when we are in healthy relationships with other people. Technology can help us in this area - it can keep us connected with friends and family who are far away via Skype or chat apps, it can help us travel great distances quickly to see folks and allows us to keep up to date with what is going on in the lives of our loved ones. Those are all good things. That is using technology as a tool.

But where things go wrong is when we start to misuse technology - when we allow the instant gratification of social media or video games to replace genuine community. Or when we are constantly checking our social media rather than living real life. That is when technology becomes a tyrant.

So I would say that technology is great as a tool, but it is terrible as a tyrant / master. We should live with Jesus as our Master in active face to face community with other people and use technology as a tool to help us flourish.


(Andrew Bulin) #3

Hey @David_Whitaker!
This is a great question, and I think it can be approached from at least two angles.

First of all is yours in finding difficulty in really making a connection with others. I also engage in remote work and my boss is in another state. We honestly have to make opportunities for face time, and I fly out once a quarter or so to reinforce the human connection with different team members. I’m not sure if you have that opportunity, but maybe your manager sees a benefit in holding quarter/annual/semi-annual “off-site” meetings for team building and synergy?

The second is where people use technology for a replacement for human interaction. This could be a personal preference or even a social disfunction where someone cannot engage in reality. Perhaps these require different approaches depending on the level of mental and emotional impacts they make.

I do not want to overlook your lack of connection with your co-workers, but I’m also curious that you have had an chance to make a solid connection with a church fellowship and small groups. This does not replace the gaps in your work-related social circles where one often spends the most time, but I’m hoping you at least have an enriching spiritual community so you are not completely without a social connection.

Thanks again for creating this topic! :slight_smile:


(Steven M Levine) #4

Hi David. I have almost the exact same problem. I don’t work in IT, but I am an Engineered Wood Product (EWP) Designer, and I work from my home.

I don’t really have a biblical answer for you. 21st Century work places, for the most part, look very different from 1st Century Israel work places. However, I often feel very disconnected, especially from my co-workers. I rarely even hear my co-workers voices. Most of our communication is done via email or text, and in my field, email is preferable, because then there is a “paper” trail of what was said.

I am also a classic introverted extrovert. I hate leaving my house, but when I do, I can be very social. I have had to be very intentional about doing social things, that aren’t social media. So, I am the Pastor of my very small rural church, and I am also involved in our towns community theater. In fact, I am currently directing a comedy.

On a historical / biblical note. The base word for both Community and Communion is the Old French word Comun and was then adopted into the Middle English term Comuner. I don’t think it’s is an unintentional link between the 2 terms.

com·mune2

əˈmyo͞on/

verb

verb: commune ; 3rd person present: communes ; past tense: communed ; past participle: communed ; gerund or present participle: communing

share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.
“the purpose of praying is to commune with God”

synonyms: communicate, speak, talk, converse, have a tête-à-tête, confer; More

  • feel in close spiritual contact with.

“he spent an hour communing with nature on the bank of a stream”

synonyms: empathize, have a rapport, feel in close touch; More

US
receive Holy Communion.
Middle English: from Old French comuner ‘to share’, from comun (see common)


(Matt Western) #5

I’m intrigued by @SeanO post that technology is a great tool if we put it to good use and a terrible tyrant if we are enslaved by it. I agree entirely with this…

Good
Tech enables communities like RZIM connect to exist and flourish - coming from a smaller, conservative church - I for one had not had people who were able to discuss some of the harder questions that come up. I enjoy listening to podcasts on my phone of favourite speakers/preachers while driving to work (my commute is about 45 mins). I can join in churches on the other side of the planet, or go and join a university debate with Lennox with a live video stream. I can go and find almost unlimited church and Christian media sites doing great things to further the kingdom of God (theBibleProject is one of my favourite :slight_smile: ) All great things.

Bad ??
I do wonder what social media is doing to our brains with the little hits of dopamine that’s been so well documented. What concerns me is allegations that big tech companies have hired psychologists, and behaviour scientists to make social media platforms and technology addictive by design, to take advantage of our deep need for community and social approval. The most disturbing article I’ve read is this one below.

One statement that resonates with me I’ve heard many times is “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product”

What are your thoughts? Is technology simply a-moral, and its design and use is just a reflection of humanity’s fallen nature? Is social media a ‘poor’ technology because it quickly causes us to fall into the comparison trap, and short comments taken so easily out of context in facebook causes more division that good? Or are the tech giant companies starting to cross the ethical lines, if they are deliberately using brain scientists to make platforms addictive to give us dopamine hits?

It’s a great topic - is tech a useful tool or a tyrant in our own lives. Much like money I suppose: it’s a tool if we use it well, or a tyrant if we serve it (leading to possible idolatry?). How can we get that balance in our lives to keep it being a tool? Much has been written about the benefits having a so called ‘digital detox’ occasionally…

I thought I would share this video - I saw it long ago. :slight_smile: Being part of an ‘offline’ community is so important - family, church, friends are so important.