“The Next Story”—Book review on living in a digital world

How are Christians to live in a digital world?

Where we like it or not (and I do like it), we are in a digital culture.

To me, my digital devices make connecting with people much simpler through Facebook, Skype, cell phones, Twitter, texting, IM, blogs, e-mail, photo sharing, GPS,....

Not just connecting with people far away (Morgan sent me a text that she arrived at her honeymoon destination: “made it”), but it also connects me with people I live close to.

Jeff, Jenna, and I text each other throughout the day (“stuck in traffic so will be late for supper”) and e-mail, which reveals my generation (“attached is the application pdf—fill it out”). And we get each other’s tweets and Facebook status updates on our phones (although it is annoying when we update in the car and everybody’s phones immediately vibrate with the notification).

But at what price? Do our high-tech devices steal stuff from us too? Are we so glued to our smart phones and laptops and iTunes that we miss out on live-streaming of, well, life?

I don’t even know the right questions to ask about it all.

the-next-story-tim-challiesSo I’m glad Tim Challies is a step ahead in thinking this through. In The Next Story, he hammers out questions that make me uncomfortably accountable for my own digital habits.

Am I being a good steward of my devices, or are my devices deciding for me how I use my time, how my brain works, who I’m trusting, on and on?

Tim’s aim is to help us live virtuously in the post-digital explosion. And I want to. I want to be a thoughtful user of technology.

And I believe it is possible. God can use technology for his glory and for our good, if we use disciplined discernment with it.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is a blend of theology (how does God intend technology to help us), theory, and experiences between humans and their technologies.

Part 2 gets even more practical. Warning: you may come away thinking differently about Wikipedia, mediated reality, distractions, information idolatry, hypersociality, privacy, etc.

I listened to the audio version of this book. Even though that was quite apropos, I now want the hardcopy so I can see and read the words on paper (I’m kinda old-school like that, although I do love my Kindle!).

And I also want my teenage daughter to read it. If I think that *I* live in a digital world (I’m a digital immigrant), she was born into it (she’s a digital native). And I want her to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages.

We don’t have to be afraid of and avoid technology,
but we do need to stay aware of its effects.

Like everything else, it can be used for God or against him.
Let’s stay alert in our lives that it’s for him. 

* * *

Read the first chapter of The Next Story.

Do you struggle finding the right balance with digital use (I do!)?

Which technology helps you the most? Hinders you?

9 comments:

Faith said...

wow....i think my husband and I need to read this book..and then my 18 yr old! looks awesome. the piece of tech that is most helpful to me is my cell phone. i've had one since 1998 when i was pregnant with my 2nd/last daughter...my husband was doing a great bit of traveling and i had a 5 year old so it really came in handy. I've had one ever since, as do the girls and my hubby. It helps me feel that with their after school activities i have comfort in knowing where they are and they can text me when they are ready to be picked up, etc. the thing that hinders me? FB...SUCH a time waster once i am on....i'm learning to just stay connected with far away friends once a week rather than hourly...lol..but really, it has been fun getting back in touch with old Roberts Wesleyan classmates, high school buds, and people in former work settings or relatives yet it really is a time waster and doesn't nurture CLOSE human contact!
thanks for sharing this..I am gonna look for that book....would make a great xmas gift!

Holly Walker said...

I'll have to check that book out! Living balanced never happens unintentionally... ;-)

Lisa notes... said...

Faith,
I don’t think you’d be disappointed with reading this book, or by getting your daughter to read it. It gives you a lot to think about.

I love having my cell phone too, probably more for texting than for talking, especially since my daughter started driving. I can’t imagine how my mother let us kids go out in “the world,” never knowing until we got back home if we got to where we were supposed to be in between. ha. It’s definitely been a device that puts my mind at ease as a parent!

floyd said...

Interesting that this was the subject today. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was only going to write two blogs a week this next year and repost one a week. God definitely put on my heart, (although it did sound a lot like my wife's voice), to spend less time on it.

I have to say what a blessing it has been to hook up and be encouraged by fellow believers around the country. It is a daily lift, but like you pointed out so well, anything done without moderation is not honoring to God or our family.

Nice job, very needed I believe.

Beth in NC said...

It is amazing how it does monopolize our time. I stand (or sit here) guilty of spending too much time "connected" with the world.

I'm sure I need the book.

Bless you!
Beth

Lisa notes... said...

Floyd,
LOL—God’s voice sometimes sounds an awful lot like my spouse’s voice too. I’m trying to get faster at writing my posts, or else I will need to make a commitment like you. I don’t want to spend an unbalanced amount of time online.

However, I also find great encouragement through this virtual network of believers. It’s been quite amazing to make and nurture spiritual relationships.

bekahcubed said...

I love this review. I have an audiobook copy of The Next Story, but haven't got around to listening to it yet (audio is definitely not my native turf!) I'd almost forgotten that I had it, so thanks for the reminder--I'll have to load that to my mp3 player and get on it soon!

Lisa notes... said...

I find that not only do I get behind on books on my shelf and books on my Kindle, but now I also get behind on books on mp3s. But I’m glad I bumped up “The Next Story” and listened to it. I think you’d really like it too.

I’m also trying to listen to “Hannah Coulter” and “The Millenials”. I haven’t gotten hooked into the novel yet, but I’m enjoying the non-fiction one, but that’s no surprise from me. :-) (Although I did finally read and basically enjoyed my first “Harry Potter” book last week…but another one? Probably not.)

Love Bears All Things said...

I could write a book....I'm glad someone else has already done it although I could sure use the money....
I guess the thing I like the most is paying my bills online....it used to take up an hour or two of time twice a month to sit down and write out checks, fill out envelopes, etc. Now, I just tell my bank with a few clicks to send the money on a certain date...they even send me emails to let me know its done.
I like that I can get the important stuff from my family without having to spend any time on the phone...even without texting and email, I'd rather just leave a message with the information than chat.
Sometimes I'm jealous of the time Honey Bear spends on the computer even when he is sitting beside me but I imagine he used to feel the same way when I read a book....which is what he's doing, just online.
I think we just have to monitor ourselves and not let it keep us from interacting with our loved ones on a personal basis. As in the video when they're eating or saying goodbye.
Mama Bear

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