The internet is another part of the technological advances that are pressing upon us. In many ways it seems an unavoidable part of our day and the future. More and more businesses are finding it necessary to go online or be left behind. Our society is mostly an online society and becoming more that way with time. While we have taken a stand against its presence in our homes, the internet is becoming an increasing influence in our lives. The internet’s influence is changing the way we think, the way we do research, and the way we do business. This change, like most other changes from technology, has a good side with benefits that seem to become necessary for us and a dark foreboding side that can bring disaster and spiritual death.
One of the changes the internet has brought is the availability of information. Millions of pages of information are just one click away. One can research a technical question and find pages of possible answers. Mechanics, engineers, builders, and farmers can all find up-to-date information to help them solve problems. More companies are moving toward only having online services for ordering parts or services. It seems that this trend will only increase with time. We will face more and more “need” for legitimate internet use.
But what shall we do with the trash that is also only one click away on the internet? a recent survey by Josh McDowell concluded that forty-three percent of internet content is pornographic. Sixty percent of all web-site visits are immoral in nature. Thirty-five percent are for pornographic material. Immorality is the number one topic searched on the internet. There are 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests. How shall we maintain moral integrity with this influence pressing upon us? Wise people will not discount this evil presence but will welcome the protection of filters and accountability programs.
With this volume of information available, the way we do research is changing. We can do a search on a subject and find more pages than we can possibly read. We tend to resort to scanning and skimming instead of in-depth reading. We can end up having an opinion about a subject based on tidbits we skimmed from many articles and miss some important parts. In fact, we can start preferring sites where they summarize things for us and give conclusions. We then are leaning on others’ judgments and less on our own conclusions.
Internet research can also be highly distracting. Pop-up ads and search results that are not very much related to the subject beckon our attention elsewhere. We can go there and explore and return very fast –but still, we were distracted and time was wasted. Many people have found that while researching one subject, they got introduced to another subject that took their time–sometimes a wicked subject. These patterns of research and study run directly counter to good, sound study habits. Skim reading in a highly distracted environment is one recipe for false conclusions.
For some, information becomes a god that ensnares much of their time. It might be good information. It might be useful. But while they drink long at the internet’s fountain, they fail to fulfill other more important duties of life. For some, the internet becomes an addiction that they scarcely can push away from. Our internet savvy society is becoming filled with and connected to information but at the same time, some are becoming increasingly unskilled with putting it to practical use in the work place.
The whole subject of reading books is being challenged by electronics. People would rather not read books but find quicker answers on the web. Some people who do read are buying electronic books at a surprising rate. Some publishers fear the book will become extinct in its paper form. Newspapers also are pursuing electronic ink as well to save production and distribution costs. With this device a simple wireless connection will deliver the paper to our homes to be read on a screen like a computer. No more truckloads of paper, no more paper delivery trucks, just an electronic edition posted on the web, and downloaded to each device. Some companies are working to incorporate social networks with e-books. Then when you read a book or newspaper article, the comments of your friends will appear throughout the book or newspaper. Gone will be the old style story experience where you sit down alone and enter the world of the main character and walk with them through the story. Rather, you will read “among your friends” and understand and experience the story under their influence.
Then there is the “Wiki” concept of truth (a technology for creating collaborative websites). Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, relies on the public to edit and add to its articles. The following is quoted directly from Wikipedia: “People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can add or edit article prose, references, images and other media here. What is contributed is more important than the expertise or qualifications of the contributor. Allowing anyone to edit Wikipedia means that it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information, which requires removal. While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is more subject to subtle viewpoint promotion than a typical reference work. However, bias that would be unchallenged in a traditional reference work is likely to be ultimately challenged or considered on Wikipedia.” This method of publishing facts has a flaw by design. To believe that the multitudes will get it right is to believe in the basic goodness of man. We should be cautious about such information sources. We must always be alert for subtle view points and error in any reading material we use.
In summary, the impress of the internet is not all good. When it distracts us from focused study, when it feeds us information shaped by the masses, when it beckons for us to waste our time, when it teaches us bad study skills, and when it hinders practical labor skills, we must beware! To be warned is to be armed with caution.
Another part of the pressure we face from the internet is the bundling together of many technologies unto the web. In days gone by, telephone, radio, TV, etc were separate technologies developed somewhat independently. That era of time is passed. Today these entities have all merged on one world wide web.
The church in the past could speak to each technology separately. Phones we accepted but TV we rejected. But the church today faces the dilemma of the technology that has transformed simple phones into “smart phones” with capabilities to access the world's movies, music, and entertainment via internet. Many phones now are basically a full-blown computer, internet ready, in a compact form. The goal is to offer equipment that puts the power and possibilities of the internet into our hands. We will see more gadgets with full internet capabilities and connectivity.
It also seems that as conservative churches, we have done better at abstinence than moderation in relating to technology. It has sometimes felt safer to say “no” to a new technology than to teach appropriate uses and warn about abuse. It is often easier to enforce abstinence than moderation. and truly, abstinence from things like radio and TV has been a blessing to the church. But the seemingly increasing need for some internet connections makes abstinence look impossible to many. To say “no” to internet use knowing that many people will go on using it in some way because it is so needful, seems unwise. But to swing the door for access wide open also seems unwise.
The speed at which these technologies are coming to us, and the rush to pick them up should catch the attention of a caring, conservative people. In many ways, to say nothing is to accept them. and it seems that after something is accepted and used, it is painfully hard, if not impossible to say “no” to it later.
This prevalence and power of the internet, shapes our way of thinking about it. Since its presence is found in so many places, the rising generation tends to see themselves as part of a technology age with the internet tying many things together, while many older folks resist this change. They fear this is preparing the world for the one-world globalization that will be part of the end time system. Some wonder if the antichrist will use this system to deceive the world. The younger generation tends to see a future in internet use but the older generation tends to fear its part in the demise of the church and the deception of the end times. This “Great Divide” in thinking causes problems for churches today. It seems that the first question any group must face is, “Will we just say “no” to all internet use, knowing this will put us on a route similar to the road Old Order groups took relating to automobiles?” If we do not take that route, then we would be wise in having the older generation pulling together with the younger to guide our thoughts about using the internet wisely and safely in moderation.
We should think about some helps for keeping internet use in its proper place. (1) It should be kept a “tool’ not a “toy.” (2) We should limit our time using it. (3) It should not be available to children, without direct parental oversight. (4) We should have a filter and some accountability set up. (5) We should not allow ourselves access in private places, where no one can check up on us. (6) We should avoid the social networks and all the connections this brings.
Several questions beg for honest answers: (1) How can we be fair but cautious with the need for some internet access for business and personal use? (2) What protections do we need to keep our hearts when using the internet? (3) How can we make it possible for “abstainers” to fellowship in the same group with “moderate users?” (4) How can we maintain a “pilgrim and stranger” mentality even in this high tech age? (5) How can we tie the wisdom of age with the tech zeal of our youth? (6) How can we fortify and equip our youth so that they will have the wisdom and experience to make technology choices for the church in the future, should our soon coming Lord tarry that long? (7) Can we use this tool moderately, yet keep our hearts prepared to back away from it should this be the very avenue that the anti-christ uses to ensnare all men?
It is quite apparent that technology is a fast changing subject and we must keep current with the questions of how we will relate to it. as fathers and leaders, we must sit down and discuss these questions (and new questions that we do not even know about yet) and find safe answers for us and our families as time continues to bring change. any established standard can soon become outdated if not kept current. May God help us to ask the right questions about our use of technology and find the answers God has for us. Let us be careful to bear the image of Christ and not the impress of the world!