I was recently sent a document titled “Strategies for Advertising to Millennials.” On the cover were three silhouetted Millennials. One was sitting on a bean bag chair on a cell phone, another was lying on the floor on a laptop with headphones, and another girl was playing a video game. (What? Girls play video games?)
What the marketing piece was emphasizing is that the lives of typical Millennials are now completely integrated with technology. And I’m no exception. I feel like I’ve practically grown up with technology. As a young lad, I saved up my lawn-mowing money for months to order my very first CD Boombox out of the JCPenney’s catalogue. DC Talk never sounded so good! These days, I use my laptop and iPhone constantly throughout the day.
Technology has been changing rapidly. It’s truly amazing what these time-saving technologies can do. However, we must recognize that these things also change our lives. A few short years ago, people were talking about how email had all but replaced letter writing. Today, Facebook messaging has all but replaced email. Email was so three years ago.
What has struggled to keep up with the changing technology over the past decade is appropriate etiquette in using these technologies. We’ve all had face-to-face conversations cut short as someone responds to a text or takes an incoming call. I’ve seen people answer cell phones in work meetings and recently read about a pastor who took a call at the bedside of someone dying. Bad form.
This is not OK. While I’m tempted to create a list of things you should never do with technology, let me just summarize: Be with the people you are with.
God uniquely created human beings to relate to each other face-to-face. While technology can help us stay connected over distance, we should never sacrifice our ability to relate in person for more time chatting with technology. Let technology be a tool for sending and receiving important information, but don’t slip into building and maintaining relationships with it.
If you’ve been chatting or texting back and forth with a friend, go spend time together. And when you are with people, don’t be distracted by your cell phone. It communicates that the people you are texting are more important than the people you’re with. Unless someone is dying, we should all learn to be fully present with the people we are with.
We should also recognize that technology can easily become an idol. As author Tim Challies writes,
Technology presents us with a unique spiritual challenge. Because it is meant to serve us in fulfilling our created purpose, because it makes our lives easier, longer, and more comfortable, we are prone to assign to it something of a godlike status. We easily rely on technology to give our lives meaning, and we trust technology to provide an ultimate answer to the frustration of life in a fallen world. Because of this, technology is uniquely susceptible to becoming an idol, raising itself to the place of God in our lives.
It’s wise to occasionally take inventory of the hold technology has on our lives. I recently sold my Xbox 360. I don’t really miss it. It’s freed up time for other things that are more important. While I still use technology every day, I’m careful to never use technology or the services it provides to be rude to the people I’m with.
If you were to write a book on technological etiquette, what rules would you include?