Have you heard of “Text Neck”? That’s the term therapists use for the effects of texting on our spines. They tell us that the average human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. Tilting it down to look at a mobile device increases gravitational pull, so that the neck experiences a force of 60 pounds at a 60 degree angle. This is equivalent to putting four adult-sized bowling balls on your neck. Since the typical American spends an hour on his or her smartphone a day, spinal stress may lead to early wear, degeneration, and possible surgery.
Text neck is not the only unintended consequence of the technological revolution. The Islamic State continues to broadcast beheadings on YouTube because their videos shock the world and advance their cause among jihadists. The cousins who massacred Jewish rabbis in their synagogue on Tuesday knew their actions would bring instant global attention to their cause. (For more on the recent violence in Israel, see my article ‘Violence in the Holy Land: my view.’)
Twitter has now made available every public tweet sent since the service began in 2006. Who knows what embarrassment lies ahead for those whose long-forgotten tweets are reported to the world? Social media fueled the Arab Spring, but most who joined the movement are still waiting for the democratic reforms they sought. And the plague of Internet pornography is destroying lives and marriages around the world.
At the same time, technology is escalating medical progress in unprecedented ways. Nurses with cell phones are sending pictures of medical conditions to doctors who diagnose and then direct treatment online. Doctors are monitoring patients through smartphones. The Internet enables medical researchers to collaborate around the world.
Online strategies are bringing education to millions. Technology-based businesses are adding billions to the global economy. And ministries using the Internet and social media are leading millions to faith in Christ. If this Cultural Commentary were distributed to our 93,000 readers by mail, it would cost nearly $46,000 to deliver.
Some worry that informational technology is isolating us, delivering spiritual content at our individual convenience without the need for churches and community. Undoubtedly it’s true that some who would have participated in congregational worship now stay home and listen to podcasts. But wouldn’t people in the 1970s have worried that services on television would do the same? What of those in the 1920s who heard the first radio sermons? Or those in the 15th century who worried that printed Bibles and religious books would make priests and pulpits obsolete?
Texting can be bad for your spine but good for your soul. To me, the bottom line is not how we convey our thoughts but what thoughts we convey. God wants us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Will you love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) today?