Monday, January 5, 2009

Media

We're healthy again, thank God. It's Monday morning, and the reality of real life is hitting. The kids are back to school, Ryan's back to work, and I'm back to doing the day to day all by myself. There's a dull dread and anxiety about the routine, and yet I'm sure it will be good for us all. I sometimes find myself in an unexplained inertia on vacation. It was no less true this time - I told Ryan I felt like I'd caught a spiritual cold. With sick babies and the responsibilities of the holidays, I wasn't making time for reading the Bible and praying. The last several days have been better, and the difference is palpable.

Over the past couple of days, Ryan and I have been listening to a series of lectures given at a local church by a Wheaton College communications prof, Dr. Read Mercer Schuchardt. He studied under Neil Postman at NYU, and I guess his official area of expertise is what he calls, "media ecology," that is, the effects of media on our environment.

In many ways, he levels the age-old criticisms against media and technology that we've all likely heard. It isolates us, for one. But there's more to it than it. He talks about the pathologizing of our culture and its direct correlation with new technologies. Whereas we tend to think of these pathologies (e.g. depression) as "abnormal" responses, he talks of them as "normal responses to abnormal stimuli." What gives the most weight to his talk, I think, is his personal lifestyle choices: he does not own a t.v., personal computer, cell phone, or iPod. He doesn't facebook, text, blog, etc. His choices are what he would call his Christian resistance to culture.

He does not prescribe his choices for everyone, but he does challenge each of us to consider the following questions as we use our technologies.

1. Does this technology attract or repel relationships? 
2. Will it enrich my "present presence," or my ability to be fully here now?
3. Will it embody and incarnate me or disembody and disincarnate me?
4. Will it allow me to hear the still small voice of God or will it only contribute to the distracting din of cultural noise?
5. Will it increase true religion, that is, the care for widows and orphans?
6. Will it increase or decrease my attachment to and corruption by the world?

For the first time, I think, I've started to see how some of my use of technology has become a substitute for real relationships and even an avoidance of people. And his point is well-taken: the gospel message was incarnated, and that's got to mean something.

My first steps in response to the lectures were to give back the first season of West Wing we'd borrowed from friends and make phone calls last night rather than emailing.

We'll see what's to come.

3 comments:

Kristy said...

That's funny Jen, we just took the TV out of our bedroom. It's just an experiment and may be returned in a month or two. Crazy that you posted this today. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not ready to give up my facebook tho. =)

Veronica said...

Well that makes a lot of sense. Hm.. I can't imagine giving all that up. I can understand the isolation that technology gives.

Bridgett said...

We've been without a t.v. for about five years. And before that, it sat in the corner, sans cable, collecting dust for about seven years.

It's been fanflippintastic.

Now "the beast" in the Internet. Far more dangerous, in terms of wasting time, and pulling me away from what really matters, than the television ever was.

Oh, always having to be on guard...the enemy is relentless with his crafty schemes.