Spirituality in a Digital Age: Some More Questions...

"For God alone my soul waits in silence..." Psalm 62:1

Recently, I watched one of my teen-aged sons in a typical posture: the TV was on, he had his laptop open, and he was texting on his smartphone. Three screens going at once, he was multitasking, not missing an Instagram photo, a Facebook status update, or the social plans emerging that evening among his peers. It would be easy to say this is just behavior typical of that age and stage. But we know better. Increasingly, many of us digitally-connected folks run multiple screens as we monitor social media sites throughout our days, making ourselves available 24/7--at least to our similarly wired peers. Some people even text while they drive--which is another blog post altogether.

As a pastor for spiritual formation, it makes me wonder: when we immerse ourselves in instant communication, do we lose our ability to distinguish between the urgent (that dinging text message) and the important? When we actually sit down with another person, at a meal or coffee, are we really present to them--or does the cell phone vibrating in our pocket destroy our ability to focus? Furthermore, are our attention spans dramatically decreasing (and our need for an adrenalin hit from freshly updated screens increasing) when we uncritically acquiesce to this digitally-wired lifestyle? What lasting, yet unforeseen, impacts will screen technology have on brain function and personality development?

Oh so many questions roll around in my mind...Will we ever again be able to unplug and enjoy a walk in the woods? Or will that be too "old school"? Will we be able lose ourselves in a good book? Or is that just something grandma does?  Will we be able to discern the deeper issues and needs that drive our lives? Or will the constant distraction of digital media make that impossible? Will we be able to pray and listen to God? Will we cultivate patient waiting? Or will these things seem ever more elusive, irrelevant, and, frankly, a waste of time? What will the role of silence be for us--a welcome friend or a stranger who makes us fidget uncomfortably?

What will a 21st century spirituality look like for us, one that isn't Luddite, but gazes clearly and deeply at the issues and opportunities right before us, courageously naming both the costs and benefits of constant digital communication?

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