There used to be a short answer to the problem posed by Newport that he takes almost three hundred pages to answer. What should we do about all the time-wasting, social-media-hyped, internet-exacerbated problems in society? We need self-control. So all he really needed was a hyphen, not hyperventilation. Though I thought Deep Work was a smidgen too precious, this book is supersized precious. There’s very little fun, though there are occasional common sense reminders about the benefit of focus. The primary way Newport suggests getting better at social media is to avoid it. And it goes against something I wrote recently about carrying my own digital man purse. As I said in that post, I don’t love FB at all, but I wouldn’t recommend this book by Newport as the antidote, to FB, Twitter, email, or to a wealth of online opportunities which also carry some risks.
I was listening to a podcast episode recently, I can’t remember which one even though I don’t actually listen to a bunch, and the hosts referred to the “enthusiasm industry.” They were talking about people who write and talk about apps (mobile, desktop, whatever). These aren’t necessarily the developers or even marketing employees of a company, these are people who make their living trying out and reviewing apps and services. They are professional buzz makers, stoking enthusiasm that sustains the creation/consumption cycle.
Some of these enthusiasts are helpful, even trustworthy over time. Many of them, though, are just making noise. How are consumers being prepped to distinguish?
It made me think of Dorothy Sayers’ warning about propaganda.
Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? (The Lost Tools of Learning)
The enthusiasm industry, including (especially?) those who promote productivity apps, may keep us distracted from doing work rather than helping us find the right tool for work.
The doctrine of creation does more than provide science with the origins of the universe. Because we know the first cause, in particular, because we know the first Who, we know that we are not alone. We are not alone and we exist for someone else’s purpose. That means that we all exist for Him, each and every one of us, and that means that we should be careful how we talk about His stuff.
Again, Genesis 1 and 2 reveal how we got here, who we are, and what we’re supposed to do. God made us, He made us in His image, and He commanded that we be fruitful and take dominion. There are now over 7 billion people living on the planet. Many of us have cell phones bouncing off of satellites to order our food via voice activation. Yet there’s one area of stewardship that we still struggle with.
[N]o human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3:8–9)
Creation establishes morality, both in terms of to Whom we give an answer and for what we will answer. Morality belongs with how we respond to God and how we relate to one another. We have more means of communication today than at any other time in history, but there is no technology that can protect our talk. Only theology can protect our talk. Whether we text, post, call, or whisper about someone else, only one type of thing should come out.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10)
How you think about and talk about your neighbor starts with worship. We should take our talk seriously because God has authority over us and because God has given dignity to those around us.
First, that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price.
Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners.
Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on.
Fourth, technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates.
And fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.
[T]here is a new spiritual discipline of fasting from technology to be mastered [so that] we can enjoy the life and people that God puts in front of us rather than ignoring them while we peck away with our thumbs and chat about nothing, which in the end is rarely as important as the people we are ignoring all around us.
In other words, you can identify what’s most important to you by what you ignore.