Christian Internet Ethic (i.e. how to be in the internet), Part 4

If you have a job where the internet is necessary, then what can be done? Maybe set times aside where you lock your phone and computer up in a safe only your wife knows the code, too. Do it at night. As soon as you get home from work, put all technology in a safe. Read a book. Forget about digital connections for a night, bother yourself with physical ones.
If you can’t do even this, put your phone on silent more often.
The thing I’ve learned, having lived in the internet my entire life, is that you can get by with less than you think. You think you need to check your emails as much as you need to. You think you need to go on facebook. But, I know you would be happier with less. You would suddenly have more time to do the things you want. Few people I know want to spend all day on facebook, checking their emails. The people that do just do it are unaware they are being led by the secret desires of the mind, the insatiable craving for instant gratification and meaningless knowledge. It’s not good for the brain, if you go to it without focus or intention. But, it’s what we are all steeped in. We are strong tea.
If you come to the internet obscurely, with no plan, letting your mind wander, and let the links that look most appealing take you, what you are getting is not an internet ethic you yourself have formed, but rather an ethic the internet is forming for you. You are learning, by catechesis, that instant gratification is a good thing, that what looks appealing and takes you on the internet is actually appealing.
You are allowing your morals to be set. And this is a different ethic than I began talking about. A lot of the internet, a lot of the click bait on facebook, depends highly on your sense of right and wrong. We are, sometimes in equal parts, attracted to clicking on what looks wrong to us as what looks right. We are attracted to the dogs welcoming their owners home from the military and also attracted to learning about Caitlyn Jenner and “what the world is coming to”: a sort-of home-brewed conservative Apocalypse. Get over it. The internet wants you to feel these ways. How many songs by strong female singer-songwriters have been written about this? The blind following we have to the internet, consumerism, the media? We are the pieces in the machine run by Google. They know our every thought. David Byrne has probably written a song about it.
I am not one of those Christians who thinks that Christendom is going to hell in a Walmart bag, that we feed our children to Mammon, and that the only escape is distributism and community gardens in Detroit where the Lord’s Supper is Swiss Rolls and Triscuits. But, I understand the sentiment. The things our culture steeps us in are only poison when we fail to recognize the label on the bottle.
Do you see where I have gone with this post? I have come to a point where I sound like a fanatic. But, if I am a fanatic of anything, it is intentional living. Do not go living your life, unaware of how things are affecting you, failing to recognize what patterns you are following, what habits you are giving into. To be wise is not to know pithy one-liners. To be wise is to let knowledge change the way you live. So let the knowledge of your own life, knowing yourself, change the way you live. Form an ethic for everything you do. Don’t stress yourself out doing it, but be intentional. Enjoy it. Check everything you do. There are always ways to be happier, more satisfied, and these ways of pursuing happiness are directly related to your faithfulness to God and your relationship to the Father. Are you seeking him while you’re on the internet? Are you burying your talents in hours spent, not worshipping Mammon, but yourself? If your facebook causes you to sin, cut it out. Don’t be a slave to yourself. The internet is only dangerous, if we are not careful, if we let ourselves wander. To those who are pure all things are pure. How many more Bible verses do I need to paraphrase to prove my point?
The sum of the matter is this: you can live a more satisfied life, if you will take the time to think intentionally about the internet. Delight in the days of your youth–and know that for everything you put before your eyes, God will take it into account.
We can do better.



  • Josh The Younger

    Not sure I’ll ever agree fully with the EXTENT to which you’ve taken this, but your point about intentionality is well-taken. I’m not sure there’s really such a thing as ‘wasting time’. At least not in the traditional sense. Being prodigal with time though? Definitely a thing. In my life, for sure.


  • Hey Caleb,

    So I read the series of posts, and I can agree with the sentiment of what you’re saying about being intentional, but I’m really curious about how you’re confining this to the Internet. It seems to me like it would be way better to be intentional with your life, then the way you use the Internet will flow out of that.

    You’re making a lot of generalizations and are just talking about the “fluffy” parts of the Internet. I feel like I’d rather have “no fluff zones” in my life than no internet zones. I spend a lot of my internet time reading books, listening to music, and keeping up on scientific breakthroughs and world politics, and I’m way better for it. If I wanted to waste time, I could just as easily read a celebrity magazine or gossip about stupid stuff with whatever friend I ran into and it would be pretty much accomplish the same as Facebook or email. If I’m being intentional about keeping fluff from overtaking my life, then it doesn’t matter if I do or don’t have access to the Internet. If I’m using the Internet I’ll be doing something useful, not wasting time.

    People are creatures of habit, and I feel like if you make a habit of using the Internet productively, then it almost becomes a non-issue. If you open your browser and your home page is Facebook, then you understandably might need to stay off the Internet until you change that.

    If you find the right communities or projects, the Internet can be just as much about creating and sharing as it is about consuming and having your worldview shaped. I’m definitely with you about being intentional about this though. Thoughts?


    • I would advocate (for my life personally) a change in the metaphor we use for the internet: not seeing it as a tool (whether for good or ill), but a place.
      Producing what? The internet, if it is a tool, seems more about collecting than building.
      Being intentional about your whole life is essential–I just wanted to highlight the internet as a place in most of our lives that we accept and don’t consider, “Maybe there is another way to look at this.”
      As for having “no internet zones,” I have a personal belief that spaces shouldn’t be mixed, unless it is a setting like a pub or a family living room. In those settings, the people going in agree that they will be doing their tasks secondarily, but are really there for fellowship/hospitality first.
      The internet (dangerously, I think) allows us to be in many places at once. Saying that might even be a cliche. I just watched “Boyhood” for the second time: Mason has complaints about his girlfriend’s phone usage along these lines. I’m not against the internet, I’m just against when I’m sitting with someone to be there with them and they are not there with me.
      Concerning the fluff on the internet: even the good stuff, like knowledge etc, is a source of instant gratification. That mechanism is directly opposed–sitting on the other side of the see-saw–from productivity, being creative, maintaining endurance, etc. Even the good stuff on the internet is so instantly accessible that it teaches our brains we can get rewards without much work. So, to the fluff, I think 90% (this is a compromise) of the internet is fluff in the sense that 90% teaches us instant gratification. Not always a bad thing, but then we have to ask, “What are we going to do about it?” I’d say we should all consider how it is effecting our perception of what it means to work and how important endurance is to us.


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