This fall as things have become busier than ever, I have been reflecting on my hectic schedule balancing work and family. With four kids in elementary, middle, and high school, and my wife's return to full time teaching, the past few months have been a bit crazy to say the least. Our family Google calendar often has so many simultaneous appointments that you have to view it by the day just to read what each one is. My wife is a master at organizing things, but often we feel like two passing ships- or carpool drivers. Like many other parents, we multitask and use technology to try to keep on top of things. I often find myself answering the question, "How are you?" with a one word reply, "Busy."
I am especially interested in the role I see technology playing in all of this. I also have been noticing the distraction I see technology becoming for me, sometimes consuming up time I may have had to connect with family and friends or just to relax. A couple weeks ago on a plane, I read Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. What follows are some highlights from a chapter entitled, "You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul." If you're too busy to read the book yourself, you may find these excerpts enlightening:
- It’s easy to think the best answer for technology overload is to rage against the machines. And yet, it does no good to pine for a world that isn’t coming back and probably wasn’t as rosy as we remember it.
- In the Shallows, Nicholas Carr reflects on how his attitude toward the Web has changed. “At first I’d figured that the problem was a symptom of middle-age mind rot. But my brain, I realized, wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it—and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became. Even when I was away from my computer, I yearned to check e-mail, click links, do some Googling. I wanted to be connected.”
- ...the Web had “scattered their attention, parched their memory, or turned them into compulsive nibblers of info-snacks.”
- For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play. We are busy with busyness. Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time.
- We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thoughts. We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts. That’s acedia—purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.
- We are never alone.
- “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.”
- We are in a “non-stop festival of human interaction.”
- Our digital age gives new relevance to Pascal’s famous line: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
- Neil Postman’s admonition is wise: technology “must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things.” We must understand that “every technology—from an IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a computer—is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore requires scrutiny, criticism, and control.”
- The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present. We cannot be any of these things. We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance—and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.
I'm still reflecting on my reading, but plan to focus more time learning about this as well as taking action on some of the tips and ideas I've learned about from this reading. I also recently have read Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson. I would love to hear from you about other resources and ideas you have for dealing with technology's role in contributing to our crazy busy lives!