Holiness in the Age of the Hyperlink

LET’S FACE IT, the world has shrunk. A whole wealth of information is at our fingertips, laden with opportunities, potential and possibility. The good, the bad and the ugly are all accessible to us in a digital landscape.

Overwhelmed by Choice

What does this mean for the life of the disciple? How can we choose wisely? Now when we are faced with links, bombarded by advertisements where it is so easy to click and go – how do we exercise self control? It’s so easy to look, these days. Searching only requires typing words into a box; it doesn’t require huge planning or effort.

I’m not only talking about the Big Things, like pornography and the vast array of material now available on the internet. Staying holy in the age of the hyperlink can be a huge challenge. But even the little things can challenge our discipleship– even the act of clicking on a link out of idle curiosity, surfing the net in a distracted state and coming away wondering – who ate the last two hours of my life?

Easily distracted

Some of us are more easily distracted than others. I know I am. I envy those who can keep their focus, who have oodles of discipline and self control. Those who are not prone to procrastination. Those who are not like me. Self control is part of the multi-faceted fruit of the spirit – and I find it one of the hardest.

Because it’s so easy to end up looking at things that aren’t necessarily ‘bad’.  Frequently I find myself immersed in the unimportant. I know I could have used my time better, could have been more constructive, could have – does this sound old fashioned to us? – improved my character by doing something different. I don’t want to live a mediocre life, but often I feel in danger in doing so.

Sometimes we are tired, but instead of taking proper rest, we engage in idle distractedness, and wonder why we still feel tired. Our brains and bodies work on so many levels and – much as I hate to admit it – playing Angry Birds does not often give me the rest I need.

Possibly not the most restful activity in the world...

It comes back partly to the old adage: know thyself.  We will all struggle with different things.  One person may have no trouble switching off an activity, whereas another may get sucked into it for hours.  As with so many things, whatever the media, it comes down to how we use them. We are usually aware of our weaknesses, even if we are reluctant to confess them. Identifying what these are is an important part of tackling them, of exercising self control. This is where I am weak. This is where I have to be accountable; this is where I need to put something better in its place.

This is what I need to pray about, to ask God’s Spirit to guide me and indwell me.

Lord, I want to value the time you have given me, to honour the opportunities to make life better – for myself and for others. Help me demonstrate the multi-flavoured fruit of the Spirit, self control included.

Questions to think about:

  • What does it mean to be holy? To be different? To be separate? Is it just about staying away from the bad and the ugly or is it an active seeking of the good?
  • When we spend time in the digital landscape, how do we use this time? Do we use the opportunities it gives us for the good of ourselves and of others? Or can it be simply an exercise in distraction?
  • What identifies us as disciples of Jesus in a digital age?

About Lucy Mills

Lucy Mills is author of ‘Forgetful heart: remembering God in a distracted world’, published by Darton, Longman and Todd. What does it mean to ‘remember’ God? Do we actively recall him in our daily lives? She is also on the editorial team of Magnet – an ecumenical Christian resources magazine specialising in colourful and meditative content. She blogs at www.lucy-mills.com/blog