Digital Slavery: Confessions from An Internet Addict

I took a personal retreat last winter to Kansas City where I got a lot of revelation about my life and my relationship with God. One of the things that he spoke really loudly to me, to my surprise was: “Fix your relationship with technology/internet”.

Wow! You care about me and the internet God?

It was then that God gave me a picture of myself. I saw myself sitting down trying to meditate on the presence of God but two walls were crashing in on me imposing on my precious time with God. One wall was the busyness of my life. The other was..the internet.

These walls served to symbolically show the things which were pressing dangerously in on my life, affecting my relationship with God in ways I didn’t understand.

It was then I began a series of praying and meditating on my own relationship with technology, internet, and Jesus. I’ve always prided myself in being technologically savvy–I was present when the internet first came out, learned web language and website making skills by junior high, made computers in high school, then finally switching to a Mac post grad (my most proud moment.. j/k :)). iPads, smart phones, eReaders, apps, Macbook Air’s later, I was living on the edge of technology, but woefully unaware of that I was in over my head in being addicted to these things.

I began noticing such things as…

  • why is that when I get home, the first thing I do is turn on my computer?
  • why is that during my times with Jesus in the morning, e-mail checking is also part of that?
  • why is that I am used to and want to be inundated with information thrown at me all at once?
  • why is that my eyes are so used to screens and resist the idea of living outside the city?

I found that I was a little addicted to the internet.

2 months of praying, instituting boundaries for myself, and seeing myself grow, I’ve compiled some thoughts to any other user of technology and internet some thoughts on how I grew out of technology/internet into a better relationship with God and hope that these will be helpful to you:

  • The internet/social media is inherently designed to make me addicted
    to the question of why I’m on Facebook all the time, the answer is…because it’s designed for us to be on it all the time. As with the vast majority of other websites/web apps out there. Be it Facebook, Twitter, games, news sites, sports sites, YouTube, I realized that these guys have designed their site to make it addicting. 

    When I realized this, I realized that addiction to anything is an impediment for my relationship with Jesus. When my mind is used to these things and almost “needs” it to function, it takes away from my devotion to Jesus

  • The Internet is not my god…
    …then why do I commit so much time to it? Why is it in my habits, and mind that I cannot live without a computer or the internet? If I paid as much homage/time to the internet as I do to the Holy Spirit who lives in my and wants to speak to me….
  • It’s not just about the time I spent on the internet, but the affect it has on my mind
    I remember how some days in the height of addiction how I would come home and, in my boredom (and need for entertainment), would go on YouTube and watch random basketball videos. I would sit there and the time would just go…before I knew it I had just spent 45 minutes in front of a screen, having learned nothing, done nothing, and become no one better.

    But the devastating thing was that I had not just lost time. But the mental state of my mind was in a much different place than when I first started watching.

    I was unable to focus afterwards. My ability to be productive went down. And strangely, being in a place of prayer was so hard. It was hard to enter into the flowing revelation of God’s presence I was used to.

    When I pulled out of the internet, I finally felt really free to focus and get things done.

  • Being on the internet is not restful
    Being inundated with information is not restful, nor a good way to spend my Sabbath, or for me to connect with God.

    ESPN.com is not restful.
    Facebook is not restful.
    A walk outside is restful.
    Reading Google News is not restful
    Playing basketball is restful
    Having a ton of tabs open on Chrome is not restful.

  • Incessant email checking is not normal, nor fun
    Why do I have to check my email so often? Most responses don’t need my immediate response. It perplexes me (now I have come to the realization) how new technologies are always boasting about their capabilities to check email. I remember just seeing a commercial with a car with email-reading capabilities built in, to which I replied, “Why would I want to check my email in my car?”

    Am I so addicted that I need something coming in my inbox to feel alive or connected to the world?

    I think if I checked my email as much as I spent listening to the Holy Spirit, I’d be a much better person for it.

  • Being on the internet in class is…dumb.
    I used to be that guy. Yes, that guy in class who, after the first sight of boredom would log onto Chrome and just surf the web, be on Facebook, etc..

    I would look up occasionally, pretending that I was tuned into what was going on, or that I was actually learning, but my mind was in another place.

    It’s only this quarter that I officially have the internet turned off during class. It’s only then that I look around and see people that I used to be like, to which I say, “we’re spending this much $$$$ to be on the internet in class??” I also learned that I learned a lot more without the distractions of email or Facebook. My enjoyment of the class and the professor went way up.

  • Creating boundaries for internet use has been helpful
    I made rules for myself for this year.

    No Facebook during the day (only morning and before bed), no internet during class, no internet during time with Jesus (how would you like your time communicating with someone be distracting? Imagine how Jesus feels..). No YouTube, at all (it’s rarely ever helpful). Uninstalling apps on my phone. (I allow Twitter because I’m usually just sending Tweets, not reading them..)

    I only say these to give some idea of what has been really helpful for me to pull from this addiction.

So those are my thoughts on ways that I have been growing out of being addicted to the internet. I seriously hope that this will bring any addictions that those who read may have.

I seriously hope that this will turn on the light so that we can see how the increase of internet usage, and technology in the hands of the common-folk affects our spirituality and our relationship with God.

God is spirit (John 4), not on a computer screen.

Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

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