Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World is a small book with a big message. Our 21st century technology, the cause of many fragmented and distracted minds, may have an impact on our spirituality. Author Peggy Kendall helps us realize there is often too much stimulation fighting for our attention. And she raises valid points about its effect on our personal values, relationships and family.
Not everyone is quick to adopt the newest tech marvels, but as a society we seem to be swept up in it to the point of no return.
In Reboot, Kendall writes as a working mom, teacher, and person who uses technology as an aid in her work and personal life. She is associate professor of communication studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She articulates the issues of tech-overload without berating readers. As an example, when she asks us to consider the cost of our choices, she writes, the result is usually less sensational than the gains and a lot harder to identify. We sacrifice more than we realize. “With every gain, we lose a piece of a simpler, less encumbered life. With every new gadget, we become more wired and less grounded. With every new virtual link, we lose a little bit of reality.”
Kendall quotes E.B. White, commenting on the arrival of television back in 1948: “It’s possible that by having the ability to experience so many things, we lose the ability to cherish the truly special things.” This sounds equally pertinent today.
Maintaining our sense of spirituality in a high-tech world requires finding the balance in life. “The bottom line is that God wants us to experience his divine presence with our entire heart, soul, and mind, and that includes our emotions and senses.” While technology can be fun and relaxing, overuse can make our real-life drama seem less satisfying and less significant.
When we download or open new tech toys, we are unaware of the side effect, a self-centered and lazy reality, far from the hopes of a richer life-changing experience we expect. Reboot suggests we occasionally hit the “Pause button” and have a “Tech Sabbath” now and then, to disconnect for a day.
Reboot is an especially useful tool for clergy and those who work with youth groups, but also a great guide for families who need to reconnect with each other instead of living together in technology isolation. Young people, over-absorbed with their online lives, have a chance to change before the pervasive influences of technology leave them lacking in real-life social skills. Offering an alternative real-time engagement with family, conversation, and activity may bring them back to the reality of life beyond text messages. In a short time they may realize their personal social connections offer much more than superficial friendships online.
Telling people technology is bad for us would be a hard sell. Kendall is a heavy user of technology herself and recognizes it does good things for us. But, she says:
“When technology gives us something good, it also takes something away. With today’s easier technology, speed and efficiency grow, but for many of us this efficiency and productivity overshadow such things as patience, attentiveness, and quality work."
Computers, email, and the ever-present internet, collectively, can quietly steal our margins, those buffers of do-nothing time. Perhaps we place too high a priority on our online activities. We have heard this theme lately in the media, with people on a quest for stillness, happiness, and a return to spirituality. But they have to unplug to reach that goal. Without abandoning all technology, Kendall does show how we can seek solitude and power down now and then.
Reboot offers hope that those stressed by immersion in too much technology can find a balance to maintain spirituality and still use technology, without sacrificing to the technogods.