The African Apostle Paul wrote to believers in the Empire city of Rome these words: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”
The definition of conformed is “to act according to or be obedient to a rule or norm (usually followed by to): to be in harmony or accord (usually followed by with).”
The late Reverend Dr. Frederick G. Sampson, who pastored the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, once stated “That the progress of humankind is not necessarily the progress for humankind.”
That is why Paul’s words are even more essential now than they were in the first century when Paul wrote the words.
We are inundated with technology that is promoted as progress, when in reality it is being used to regress the majority of the population’s ability to concentrate.
And let me say that this is not a rejection of technology, but a wakeup call concerning technology, so it can truly serve people and not anesthetize people.
There is an absolutely incredible book titled “Stolen Focus, why you can’t pay attention-and how to think deeply again,” by Johann Hari.
In it he tells of an experience where he took his 17-year-old nephew to Graceland. While there he noticed that his nephew stayed on his phone. So he asked his nephew, “why are you on the phone when we are here at Graceland?” To which his nephew responded, “I know, I’m looking at the sites now on my phone.”
Johann was upset, but when he noticed that many if not most people in that moment, who were physically in the Graceland tour, were themselves looking at the sites of Graceland on their phones too while in the actual place, he went from upset to angry.
Can you imagine being in a place of beauty physically, but choosing to turn away from the grandeur and greatness of the Grand Canyon only to view the images of it on your phone or device? It seems absurd, but it is a reality for so many people drawn to social media and technology.
The book is a revelation as to how the attentions of many, if not most people, have been hijacked by technology and in particular social media.
Social media has created a context where meaning, and feelings of value and worth are discerned by “clicks and likes.”
By the way, even journalism has been overtaken by “clicks and likes” when presenting news stories. If the story won’t generate enough clicks and likes, which equate to profits, that story will not be reported.
When one uses social media, it is clear that the trick of this technology is to make one feel like they are desired, wanted and connected to other people in community when in reality nothing can be further from the truth.
The idea that one has “Friends,” and “Followers,” and that one is “Liked,” based on who and how many likes a post on your social media page will get, is a gimmick that strikes at the heart of what it means to be human and that is to be loved and appreciated.
People post statements and sayings as if they are really talking to someone in particular, when in reality they are posting to themselves hoping someone responds, preferably in the affirmative.
There are many people who experience further disappointment and depression because their posts don’t get the “likes” and responses they want, which then equates to people not really liking them in their minds.
How many bitter posts on social media have been posted because of feelings of not being appreciated, but in reality they are just ramblings in space?
It is also fascinating to realize how many people can spend hours out of their day scrolling through their timeliness on social media to be entertained because in reality they are lonely, bored and in need of an uplifting experience. This equates to wasted time, which then can have deleterious effects on one’s psyche.
The technology has affected our ability to concentrate, to focus, to do serious study. It becomes an addiction to the timeline and the images on the timeline.
It is no wonder bookstores are closing and many people in this nation have never read a book in the last several years. People cannot concentrate because they are drawn to convenience.
Ultimately, the influence of technology and social media has had a devastating effect on how people practice faith.
If people are not reading, then they are not studying scripture. They are not practicing the disciplines of the spirit like meditation, stillness and soul searching for development of the spiritual self.
Too many people are relying on YouTube videos, or podcasts where there are no requirements to be factual—but just shocking.
This is not to reject technology or social media but to have a sober understanding of how our minds are affected by it when we don’t recognize that it is a tool and not an appendage to our lives.
We as humans are made to be in physical community with one another. We are wired to be able to commune with one another and with the natural world. And we must as humans be able to disconnect from the externals of this life to be able to connect with the eternal of life.
That comes from remembering the words of the African Apostle Paul who said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” and lines up with the Psalmist who said, “Be Still and Know That I Am God,”
Let us give our souls some breathing space by disconnecting from social media and connecting in stillness with the spiritual.
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.” Contact the church by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-944-0500.
Rev. John E. Jackson
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”