Summary: A book for taking steps to put technology in its proper place, allowing persons to grow in wisdom and courage instead of giving in to an “easy everywhere” life.
I think anyone who uses our modern technology–computers, tablets, gaming systems, and especially smartphones, realizes how powerfully addicting these devices can be and the various ways they destroy our engagement with the flesh and blood material world, and especially the other real people in our lives.
Crouch organizes the book around some fundamental premises worked out in ten commitments that he and his family have sought to live by. The premises are that families exist to form the character of their members–to form them in wisdom and courage through their relationships and shared lives with each other, and that this is hard yet rewarding work. The other is that technology is “easy everywhere” luring us into easy preoccupation rather than extended conversations, isolation rather than shared experience, distraction rather than devotion, virtual sex rather than the much more challenging real thing, and listening to music and viewing art, rather than making it. Most of all, it lures us away from real into virtual presence with each other.
The book is interspersed with statistics and diagrams that underscore the impact of technology in our lives. One that caught my attention was on the pervasiveness of digital pornography:
“The rise of digital pornography and its effects are hard to overstate. More than half of teens seek out pornography (only 46% say they ‘never seek it out’) and the numbers are much higher for young adults ages 18 to 24 (less than one quarter of whom never seek it out). Even when they aren’t actively seeking it out, teens and young adults regularly come across it (only 21% of teens and 9% of young adults say they never come across porn). While most teens say they seek out porn for personal arousal (67%), substantial minorities regularly view porn out of boredom (40%) and curiousity (42%). “
Yet this is not a book driven by fear of such things but rather a commitment to putting technology in its proper place, helpful tools rather than addictive devices that destroy our capacities for human engagement. What Crouch proposes and that his family seeks to practice is a life that prioritizes people and experience that are not mediated by devices and taking measures such as media sabbaths and vacations and transparency with each other to ensure that this happens. What they wanted for their children is the discovery of the rich experiences of books, long conversations, explorations of nature, singing and making music together, and real presence in life and death with each other.
Crouch gets real and admits his own failures in the commitments they’ve made, but also the victories and what this has meant for his family and in his own life. I was a late adopter of smartphone use, but a quick convert to its addictive properties. Commitments to keep phones away from the table, to wake before my phone does, to put it away before I retire and to mute it during important conversations are beginnings of keeping this form of technology in its place. If you are becoming aware of the intrusion of technology into relationships and life experiences that matter more, this book may be helpful for its practical counsel, and a vision of life centered around growing in wisdom and courage rather than in our access to “easy everywhere.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.