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What’s your drug of choice?
If you answer, I don’t do drugs, you may want to broaden your definition of the word. Because anyone in this world who has 24/7 access to a smartphone has the potential to use some very popular drugs known as the drugs of the internet.
With one swipe and at any given moment, we can unlock our phones and enter a world of entertainment and distraction. In doing so, we often lose ourselves in virtual worlds, to the detriment of the people around us.
As Christians, we strive to live a virtuous life, and virtue is all about balance. Aristotle talks about how virtue is the mean between two extremes. Finding the mean between living in the world of our phone and the world that’s not on our phone is tough. It’s a balancing act. And sometimes one particular distraction pulls us off track more than anything else.
So what is your internet drug of choice? What app do you spend the most time on? What do you do to numb your mind after a long day of work? It may be harmless in moderation (Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Netflix, news, etc.), but are you taking it to an extreme?
Now, if your internet pastime of choice involves breaking a commandment — porn for example, or pirating music and videos, a.k.a thou shall not commit adultery and thou shall not steal — then you should not be figuring out how to be moderate in your use of those things. Get help, find confession near you, and stop forever.
My own drug of choice is Instagram. So many beautiful pictures of people! So many new people to discover and see a snippet of their lives through beautiful images! And don’t get me started on watching Instagram stories. Did you see Jenny’s gorgeous bathroom makeover? Wow, my bathroom looks so tacky. And look at that precious video with the dog! I should film more cute moments. And those wedding pictures are so gorgeous! Ugh I wish I could get married again and take even cooler pictures.
You get the idea. But the connections and conversations I have on Instagram are never as satisfying as a real life conversation or encounter. And I found myself missing out on those conversations and encounters precisely because I’m on my phone looking at static pictures. So, I go back and forth. I’ve tried only logging in for a set amount of time. I’ve tried getting rid of it altogether. But dang, I do want to stay connected that way. And moderation is the goal; complete abstinence from good or indifferent things is not required in the Christian life. The best compromise for me is logging on once a week. When I go on Instagram just once a week, I really enjoy it. I like catching up on the week’s pictures from the people I follow. When I hit the explore tag, I get bored quickly and log out and move on. Easy as that.
Technology is not bad, smartphones are not bad, many of the wonderful distracting apps are not bad either. But Christians are called to something greater than living purely for our own entertainment.
What if instead of scrolling through Twitter for 30 minutes, you scrolled for 10, then prayed for another 10 minutes and then cleaned your bathroom? What if instead of a second 45-minute episode of your show, you spend the time walking around your neighborhood? What if instead of reading that comment thread, you called your cousin?
Let’s avoid getting high off our apps and special media platforms and keep getting more involved in the messy, and sometimes boring, beauty of the world around us. Let’s learn the virtue of moderation. Let’s invest in face-to-face conversations as much as we invest in texting and messaging. Do I hear an amen?
This appeared at Aleteia.
Image: Wiki Media; Instagram.