A Light That Shines in the Darkness

Using technology in service of a better world

Mar 18, 2023

Technology Reflections Humanity Perspective Mindset
data zeros and ones with a heart

Photo by Alexander Sinn

Lately I’m finding myself more addicted to my phone than usual. Taking it with me from room to room while walking about the house. Checking it frequently, for no reason other than boredom or a craving for distraction. It’s become more than a habit, nearing addiction, and frankly, I don’t like it. I used to shamelessly pride myself in having more self-control when it came to my phone, and now I’ve fallen into the trap like most people. And it leaves me wondering—what changed?

One thing that comes to mind is the winter season we are currently in. I live in midwestern United States, which is synonymous with seasons and snow. As I write this in the middle of March, it is 27° outside, with snow still on the ground from a few days ago. With the combination of the freezing temperatures and shorter days, so much more time is spent indoors during winter. I also work from home full-time. The opportunities to be tempted to get on my phone are endless. It is the itch that can’t be fully scratched. To resist or not to resist? That becomes the question that I face incessantly throughout the day.

There is no doubt that something has been lost in our transition to the digital age, the age of social media and apps and online everything.

Sure, it has introduced convenience and, some would say, connection, but I can’t help grieving over what has been lost over what we have gained. The pieces of us we have sacrificed for the benefit of instant gratification and entertainment. All the sacred spaces of stillness that have been congested by our phones. Do we even remember how to exist without our attachment to them?

There are plenty of articles about how to “digitally detox” and habits around creating healthier relationships with our devices. And then there are the articles that go into the psychology of this addiction and what keeps us hooked and how to be aware of it. With all that knowledge available, why do we still grip on so tightly? How can something so small have so much power over us?

Technology is, of course, a double-edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.

~Jason Silva

Many have said our phones are extensions of ourselves. Like a missing limb, we feel incomplete without them. They contain within their little universe multiple versions of ourselves—the person we wish to be, the person we think we are, the person we are working to become. It simultaneously holds the potential for our highest self to emerge and our self-destruction. We can do good with it, and so much harm. We shop for things to fill our home, subconsciously hoping they will fill the gaping holes in our lives as well. We engage with the world on social media, hoping it replaces the connections inherently missing in our day-to-day. We watch videos of others being human, and often inhuman. We have the choice to turn our devices into megaphones spreading kindness or into swords ready to pierce.

Since they are not going away anytime soon—and neither is our dependence on them—I’m relinquishing to the fact that I just have to learn to coexist with them and with technology. To take full advantage of their benefits and not get stuck on what they have cost us, as hard as that might be. Often when we keep resisting something, whether it’s change of some kind, a circumstance we are in, or another person, this leaves no room for the potential of our relationship with it to change. It is only when we shift our perspective toward it that we can see it from a new angle and open up the possibility of a healthier rapport. As Dr. Wayne Dyer famously said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

It is tempting and far too easy to turn anything and anyone into our enemy.

I have been guilty of this, and not just with technology. The distance between people that this labeling creates makes the subconscious pain of our disconnection more bearable. We don’t have to feel as much if our walls are blocking out the source of the ache. We can go on antagonizing within the confines of our illusory bubbles, while our souls go on starving for kinship. If I can make what I feel is the problem into the “other,” separate from me, I also don’t have to take responsibility to fix it or own up my part in the issue. I can sit on my throne of criticism and see only fault, instead of opportunity for restoration.

Just like human relationships, our relationship to our devices is complicated, filled with attachment issues and a host of eccentricities. And just like people, we need a break from them every now and then. But if we can extract the best parts of this bond and focus on the good that can come from it, maybe we stand a chance at a healthier attachment that does not leave us frantically consumed. We can take our power back instead of giving it to tiny machines. They are, after all, merely tools at our disposal.

When I look at my phone with this perspective, it suddenly shifts my ideas of how to engage with it. I think to myself, who can I reach out to this week that could really use a friendly check-in? What can I post on social media that will be uplifting, encouraging? What apps can I use that will improve my quality of life? Essentially, the question we need to ask ourselves if we want to compassionately coexist with technology and reap its most beneficent rewards is, “How can I use technology to be a light that ‘shines in the darkness’ (John 1:5)?” That is the question I want to be asking. On days when I am wise enough to step down from my throne and lower my walls, I want to be part of restoring lost connections, not contributing to more of our collective wounding.

Perhaps, at the end of the day, the addiction that I and so many others are experiencing is actually a deep desire for something that cannot be found on a screen.

Alas, phones are not the problem, but they also don’t contain the life-giving provisions we are desperately seeking—connection, value, love, worth, contentment, joy. Maybe in reaching for our devices, we are reaching for a world where these things exist naturally for every person. And the resulting disappointment we feel when we get off our phones, however minuscule, is the ache that is left over from the unrealized nature of such a world in the one we inhabit. All we can do is inch our way closer to that realization, using technology in service of helping us get there.