Today’s technological advancements work miracles in many ways. Technology makes it possible for us to stay connected, to work remotely in some cases, and to experience different forms of art and entertainment. But as technology and the internet become even more central to our lives, how do we maintain balance?
Indeed, it has been shown that technology can be a means for people to meditate, pray, practice yoga, work out, hear live music, study, and reflect on the needs of their communities. And, technology has become essential in our quest to shed light on injustice, to research truth, and to organize for change. The beauty of the power of this tool shines forth through these difficult and uncertain times.
Despite all the good it brings, our eyes and brains need a break. How can we ensure we get enough time away from the screen? I’ve been thinking about the spiritual and moral values I want to incorporate into my relationship with technology throughout this pandemic.
An article written by the Baha’i international community at the UN explained the Baha’i perspective on science and technology: “Much of the difficulty in applying science to development today has come from the failure to link science with the basic spiritual and moral values upon which each society is built. Such values, the basis for real progress in science and technology for development, are, in the Baha’i view, derived from religion. Religion has traditionally provided standards and goals for the individual and society, but misunderstanding and distortion of its fundamental teachings have brought prejudice — dogmatism, superstition, fanaticism — all major hindrances to human development. On the other hand, scientific progress, without the religious values brought by the founders of the world’s revealed religions, has spawned materialism — greed, selfishness, distrust, injustice.”
Based on that, here are some of the ways I’m thinking about my relationship with technology:
One of the first spiritual qualities that comes to mind when I think about my goals around tech usage during this time is moderation. One Baha’i quote says “In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation.” This feels like a tall order while trying to practice social distancing.
In addition to simple solutions like setting reminders to limit the amount of time I spend on Instagram, or trying to be intentional about how much television I watch, I have been thinking about my general screen time. My work, for example, requires me to be on Zoom calls more than usual and I’m constantly checking my email. To keep up with friends and family, I rely on FaceTime or phone calls. I have realized that throughout this pandemic, I will inevitably have to spend more time alone and less time in communication with others to have some semblance of moderation with my technology usage.
The second spiritual quality that I’ve been thinking a lot about is discipline. In order to practice moderation effectively, I need discipline. Many of us struggle to build up our self-discipline, and I’ve realized that this is partly because we struggle to respect the goals we set for ourselves.
The Baha’i writings say that “man’s supreme honor and real happiness lie in self-respect, in high resolves and noble purposes, in integrity and moral quality, in immaculacy of mind.” With this pandemic tying us even more tightly to our screens, self-respect might look like recognizing when we need to hang up a call. It can also mean setting a firm bedtime for ourselves instead of watching that next episode of TV.
We can also look to incorporate new habits of prayer and meditation to fill the void of time that might emerge as we start to step back.
Through these strange and difficult times, there is something beautiful about being able to strengthen these spiritual qualities that will assuredly help us as we move through and out of this pandemic. By practicing disciplined moderation, we become better acquainted with ourselves. We learn how to make the most of the time we spend talking to loved ones and deepen our relationships by being intentional with our time. Overall, we can achieve goals that might have otherwise gone unfulfilled.