Oppression, Stress, Technology and Our Brains

My “Around the Web” post for the week ended up having several articles and things to talk about, so we are going to make it a two parter. Tomorrow we will have a few less links and some helpful conclusions, but I think it is helpful to look at a few things first.

I recently read a fascinating article on what technology does to our brains. They were discussing the break down Jason Russell had after his video on Kony 2012 went viral. (I know I am a little behind here talking about current events, but I got a lot of link from this blog.)

How could being little more than a YouTube sensation push someone over the edge like that? Researchers say that technology wires our brains in certain ways that makes this possible:

It “fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,” adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It “encourages—and even promotes—insanity.”

Using technology makes us more self-concerned and adds to our stress, not only in the way it affects our brains, but in the narratives we tell ourselves about it:

Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine, for answering the bell. “These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table,” MIT media scholar Judith Donath recently told Scientific American. “Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.”

People tell her that their phones and laptops are the “place for hope” in their lives, the “place where sweetness comes from.”

The internet gives our brains a charge that work exactly like addictions. But we have made this okay by reframing what is going on when we use technology. It is opportunity. It is hope. It is “where the sweetness comes from.”

If we saw these results paired with these narratives anywhere else, addiction is easy to spot. But we often glide right over these things when it comes to technology. Perhaps because so many of us share the addiction.

Addiction is a form of oppression. And addiction is a unique kind of oppression because it is the oppression we inflict on ourselves.

I read another recent article that talked about the Bible’s view of technology. For the time period, technology was chariots and horses. These are often critiqued in the Bible, but we find God using those very technologies. This articles suggests that the problem of technology is not the technology itself. It is using technology as a form of oppression.

God’s issue with technology is oppression. And when left unchecked, our current technologies are oppressing us.

God is not opposed to technology. He even uses it. So we shouldn’t try to write it off altogether, anymore than we should write off food because it can be an addiction as well. What we need are new ways to “rewire” our brains.

Tomorrow we’ll see how that this rewiring has always been a huge part of the narrative of God.

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