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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Practice of iBalance

Although I took this picture thinking it was kind of cute to see Lil’ A all flaked out watching a Baby Einstein video on Daddy’s iPhone (it was an educational one, by the way). The more I looked at it, the more it disturbed me. First of all, let me say we don’t make a habit of giving Alexa an iPhone in her bed. It’s a long story but it had to do with “picking our battle” after church last Sunday. I’m not proud of that but it’s the truth. We were able to get her out of her dress, change her diaper and fix lunch without a major meltdown and major discipline (yes, the meltdowns are major these days). Instead, she watched a video about Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Arabic. Does that redeem us a little bit?

The reason this picture disturbed me was it reminded me of book I read in grad school called, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. A brilliant and prophetic book explaining the ways in which media, specifically television, shape our lives, to a large extent, without us even knowing it. It piggybacks the theories of Marshall McLuhan who stated “The medium is the message” as well as “The medium is an extension of ourselves” (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man). If you can’t tell, I earned an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication.
In Postman’s foreword, he compares his book to Huxley’s Brave New World where people come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. He feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. He feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the “feelies.” As he said in Brave New World Revisited, "The civil libertarians and rationalist who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In Huxley’s book, people are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In the end, Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
Whew . . . probably too deep for a blog post, right!? Well, my point boils down to this. I got an iPhone this week. I know, I know . . . welcome to the 21st century. I have to admit I’m pretty excited about the new world it will open for both Mommy and Alexa. It’s probably the first time I’ve been excited about a technological change in a long time. I’m excited about having a phone that does more than talk and text. I can browse the Internet, send an email, use a grocery list app, Skype the grandparents or check the weather before I get out of bed. I can use it as a GPS device, an iPod, a flashlight, a camera, a teaching tool, a television. I can even dictate a text or ask it a question and it will answer me. Seriously, are there limits to this device? 

However, my concern has always been how much of an “extension of myself” do I want this device to become? I don’t want to go into withdrawal if I don’t have it with me. I don’t want it to stifle our little girl’s creativity or hinder our one-on-one time together. I don’t want to stand face to face with the Lord and have to explain why my iPhone made me less effective for the Kingdom. If anything, I pray it would make me more effective. I think the Enemy loves the iPhone as much as we do, and I just want to be aware of that.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the iPhone is a brilliant invention. I hope we discover amazing tools to encourage Alexa’s love to learn while also balancing life outside of “smart” devices. At the moment, Alexa calls it “my phone,” so we’ll have to work on that. I just pray the Lord will give me wisdom to exercise plenty of “iBalance” in the days to come. I’ll keep you posted . . . which ironically, I can do more often now.


  1. I was just thinking about this as I was rocking Stefan to sleep last night. I had the iPhone to fill my time while I sat there, seemingly forever, but was it good that I did that? Is it good that, in the middle of the night, I can be on task while holding my baby, or is it better if I am just still? In any case, I'm still adjusting, but love the iPhone.

    PS Love me some Postman.

  2. Kelsey! I have been so convicted lately about the same thing! (well, almost, I dont have an iphone, but I have plenty of other technological distractions). I have been thinking about posting about it lately, and to compliment yours, I think I will! How cool that the Lord is teaching us both something similar at the same time. I really enjoyed your post (I also read Amusing Ourselves to Death a long time ago and thought it was so true. To think that was even before all the texting, iphone, email madness really broke out...), and I know He will use further posts to speak to me as well.