By the accounts of some observers, my life online might seem pretty boring. I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. Shocking, I know! I suppose I am not your typical 30-something gal! I spend quite a bit of my time online reading devotional blogs, researching topics of interest, sending e-mails, following updates from friends on the mission field, perusing news articles, and, of course, helping out with our WoW blog. But I intentionally try to conduct most of my social life outside of social media outlets. I’d much rather make a phone call, write a note, or meet for coffee than communicate through texts, chats, or e-mails (though these options definitely are convenient at times!).
Recent studies indicate that the average American spends roughly 2 hours per day (14 hours per week) online. Some estimates are even as high as 23 hours per week! (See Business News Daily’s article at http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4718-weekly-online-social-media-time.html.) That has me wondering: as Christian women, what should our online lives look like? How do we steward our time in general and, more specifically, the time we spend using digital devices? How do we model godly behaviors through what we view and share in our digital world?
So, what has prompted my recent reflections regarding our digital habits? I attended a conference for work and got to hear a message from David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group. Kinnaman provided copies of a booklet he co-authored with Jun Young as part of Barna’s new FRAMES series entitled The Hyperlinked Life: Live with Wisdom in an Age of Information Overload. During the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through this booklet and mulling over some of the items Kinnaman presented at the conference. Kinnaman and Young note that the hyperlinked life means that we are always connected to technology; we are plugged in perpetually. We have instant access to information we need or want to know. It sure is convenient to be able to look something up and find dozens or hundreds of pages of information about that particular topic! But how do we know if that information is reliable and truthful? It is also great to be able to communicate instantly with friends and family and share news and information with them. We have more avenues than ever to connect with our loved ones!
In addition to consuming and sharing information, another component of our online existence is the persona we show to the digital world. On this topic, Kinnaman and Young pose some important questions to consider:
- How would you describe the persona or lifestyle you exhibit online?
- What are some characteristics of the online person you want to be? How could you take steps to be more like this person – to reveal in your digital life the fruits of the Spirit and the gifts God has given you?
I haven’t thought much about how my (limited) online presence might or might not line up with my life beyond the computer screen, but I do know that I want my whole self to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit! I want the words I write to glorify my heavenly Father.
Another thought-provoking topic Kinnaman and Young address is the idea of taking a break from our digital devices. They offer the idea of practicing a “digital Sabbath,” whether for a portion of a day or for an entire day out of the week. I have tried to incorporate a digital Sabbath recently and found it difficult but also refreshing. It is nice to be free of my phone’s beeping and buzzing and to get away from the glare of the laptop screen! I can devote my full attention to those I am with and let the distractions disappear, if even for a short time. One quote from The Hyperlinked Life really stands out to me: “If we focus exclusively on our online relationships, we opt for the illusion of companionship without the requirements and blessings of real friendship.” Women of Westminster, let’s tend to our online relationships but also focus on the blessing of face-to-face fellowship! Is there someone you haven’t connected with in a while? Maybe now would be a good time to pause for a moment to say a prayer for her or send her a note or invite her over for coffee!
Women of Westminster, what are your digital habits? Do you spend time online at the expense of personal relationships, or does your online life enhance your relationships? Is what you view and share in the digital world pleasing to God? How might you use your online presence to serve others and live out God-honoring traits?
Author’s Note: To learn more about the Barna Group, their FRAMES book and video series, and their research focused on the intersection of faith and culture, visit them online at https://www.barna.org/.