EMQ » July–September 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 3
Summary: How can Christians live in a world where we are glued to screens and where verbal communication seems to be going out of style? How do we do evangelism and engage with our neighbors and friends so that they can hear about Jesus when we barely even talk to each other? Digital technology, the very thing that seems to be enabling our self-destruction, may actually be a part of the solution to bring us together.
By Justin Sooter
“Gradually, then suddenly.”i This phrase from Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises, prophetically captures the unnerving feelings associated with the cascade of changes to human interaction over the last few years. I feel the difference in myself first and foremost. Like many others, my attention has been so preoccupied with things like COVID-19, political and racial turmoil, and scrolling Instagram that I find myself forgetting how to truly engage with my friends and family – if I ever knew how in the first place.
Recent events have led to a dramatic growth in the use and reliance on digital technology to help, protect, and soothe us from the world outside our doors. Even in our own homes, instead of caring for each other and being the beacons of encouragement to one another, we all end up looking at our phones at the dinner table in silence.
This new reality is especially sad because we are all shaped by the people, things, and ideas we spend time with. And perhaps, more so than ever, we feel less in control of those factors. It’s become so easy to not meet your neighbors, call your mom, or chat with your spouse in the car. We scroll, tweet, and binge-watch ourselves to death, until we finally look up and realize: “I’m not alright.”
That might seem unduly grim, but it doesn’t take much of a search to find depressing statistics on how social media addiction, political polarization, and the lack of deep relationships is affecting our mental health and leading to an epidemic of loneliness. We are starved for authentic human interaction but, at every level of society, it’s as if we have forgotten how to be human to one another.
So how are we then to live as Christians in a world where we are glued to screens and where verbal communication seems to be going out of style? How do we do evangelism and engage with our neighbors and friends so that they can hear about Jesus when we barely even talk to each other? While it seems that interpersonal communication has devolved into an unrecognizable monster, I believe that digital technology, the very thing that seems to be enabling our self-destruction, can actually bring us together.
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