Around the time you were starting infant school, Christian freshers were reading articles about whether Christians should go on the Internet, or whether to buy one of those iPhones that had just been invented, or whether to get a Facebook or Twitter account. Instagram was yet to be launched, so there were no moral questions there yet!
Today these questions seem quaint. Should Christians use the internet? How could anyone expect you to live your life without it?!
We should be thankful for the many blessings that technology brings in our moment in time. As life has locked down and we were forced to retreat to our homes, the wonders of video-calls and super-fast Wi-Fi allowed us to carry on with life with pretty minimal disruption. The reality is that much of our life is now set up around the Internet. Your ability to ‘adult’ as you start at university assumes you’ll have access to Wi-Fi, a smart phone and social media accounts.
Yet the demands of life online can also feel quite overwhelming at times.
In the last decade or so psychologists have started using the label ‘nomophobia’ (nomo being shorthand for ‘no mobile’) to describe the anxiety many people feel about running out of battery, data or signal. Our phones aren’t just used for calling or texting. We use them as a combination communication-device-camera-office-wallet-library-music-player-map-watch-alarm-clock-tv-news-source-weather-report-public-transport-timetable-calendar-notepad-computer. Some people even use them to work the technology in their homes, controlling the central heating, setting the alarm, and turning on and off lights.
When one little pocket-sized device manages all of that, it’s no wonder that we’re a bit of nervous of being without it.
The fact that our lives revolve around, or assume our constant access to, our phones and laptops raises challenges as we seek to live in a way that imitates Christ. Whilst it’s no longer relevant to ask the question ‘Should Christians use the internet?’, we can and must ask the question, ‘What does it look like to students to serve Christ in the way that we engage online?’
There’s plenty that could be said about this subject, and not enough time to do it in, but to get you started, here are four particular challenges or temptations that we might wrestle with when it comes to our internet use, and some advice on how to think well about them.
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