Technologists predict that we’ll soon be wearing cell phones as bracelets. We’ll exercise on treadmills that power our washing machines. Drones will deliver packages to our doors. Invisible keyboards will allow us to type anywhere. And personal helicopters will let us commute to work through the air and land on the office roof.
Much of the technology of today and tomorrow is good news. But some is not. Consider the growing epidemic of infidelity related to social media, especially Facebook. If you check Facebook once an hour, a University of Missouri researcher says you’re likely to experience “negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup and divorce.” The problem is not that Facebook makes people cheat. Rather, it expands the range of options for them to do what they already wanted to do.
Social networking also reminds people of what they’re missing, whether it’s a better vacation or a more appealing spouse. And it convinces them that they should wait to commit until they find what they most want.
Author and speaker Barry Cooper warns: “We are worshipping an idol. A false god. One of the Baals of our culture. His name is ‘open options.'” Cooper concludes: “The god of open options is also a liar. He promises you that by keeping your options open, you can have everything and everyone. But in the end, you get nothing and no one.”
The same phenomenon apparently extends to religion. A computer scientist at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts has discovered that those who use the Internet most are most likely to disassociate from religious affiliation. Why? He theorizes that the Internet opens up new ways of thinking for those who live in homogeneous cultures. And it connects those with doubts to others with similar questions, reinforcing their faith challenges.
It’s easy to conclude that the problem lies with human nature rather than technology. Those who want to cheat on their spouse will find a way, whether social media existed or not. People have been questioning their faith since Jesus’ disciples met their risen Lord: “When they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
However, I think the issue is more complex. Technology not only facilitates existing behavior—it also provides new opportunity. On average, American youth are exposed to Internet pornography at the age of 11. The vast majority were not looking for porn when they found a porn site—or one found them. And technology enables so-called “aggressive atheists” to confuse and influence believers in ways that were not possible before the Internet.
It’s vital that believers “take captive every thought to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), using technology to advance the Kingdom but refusing to allow it to dethrone God as our King. Job testified, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1).
Have you made such a covenant today?