I don’t know about you, but I like the Internet. Actually, scratch that. I might know a little bit about you: I suspect you might like the Internet, too. After all, that’s where you’re reading this, right?
Personally, the Internet is the information, communication and entertainment medium I use the most. I might listen to my iPod on the way to work. I watch the occasional television show. I don’t have a smart phone, and I don’t really text unless I absolutely have to.
But the Internet? It’s where I get my news as I eat my breakfast in the morning. It’s my main means of staying connected with many friends via Facebook and email (yes, I still use it). And it’s where I invest my occupational energies all day long working at Focus on the Family’s media review website www.pluggedin.com. As for my leisure time, well, I’m a hack guitarist (I have more gear and ambition than talent), and I enjoy participating in several online guitar-oriented forums in my few spare moments.
Suffice it to say the Internet is significantly intertwined with both my personal and professional life. I spend a lot of time there.
For those reasons, I think it might be hard for me to give up. If I had to choose between, say, giving up chocolate and giving up the Internet? As much as I like cocoa, it would have to go go. If you forced me to choose between coffee and the Internet, well, that one might be a bit tougher choice.
Intriguingly, an organization called the Boston Consulting Group recently posed this very question in a survey of people around the world. “What would you trade for Internet access?” the researchers asked. The results were interesting, to say the least.
Here are the things American respondents said they’d willingly give up in exchange for Internet access
- 84% would give up GPS.
- 83% would bid sayonara to fast food.
- 77% would sacrifice chocolate.
- 73% would forgo alcohol.
- 43% would say goodbye to exercise.
- 21% would kiss sex adieu.
- 10% would go without their cars.
- 7% would skip showering.
Regarding that last result, Prevention writer Molly Raisch observed, “That’s right, people are willing to give up basic hygiene for Words With Friends, which we can’t help but think might actually limit real life friends.”
Molly’s sarcasm notwithstanding, I think this poll indicates the extent to which the Internet has embedded itself deeply into our lives. And for those of us who frequently find ourselves plopped in front of a screen and (perhaps) a keyboard, I think this poll offers us a moment to reflect on our own online habits.
There’s nothing inherently problematic with the Internet. That said, the web’s virtually limitless nature can make it an engrossing, captivating compulsion for some. Those of us who find ourselves drifting online in many (if not most) of our spare moments would do well to ask ourselves some self-evaluative questions regarding the real trade-offs we actually are making.
- Are any of my relationships suffering because of my Internet use?
- How much time do I spend online daily? Weekly?
- What is the fruit of that time?
- Do I feel restless or agitated when I don’t have Internet access?
- Is my web surfing purposeful or passive?
- What am I generally looking for when I go online, and why?
Depending on our answers to those questions, our Internet usage may be something we need to humbly bring before God as an expression of stewardship, submission and obedience. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “‘Everything is permissible’ — but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ — but not everything is constructive.”