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The Excessity of Electronics

Some excessity comes in the form of electronics. By this I mean things like television, computers, the internet, and computer-type games. It also includes all kinds of cell phones and iPods.

For some of you, I just crossed over a line. You’re saying: “Wait a minute! I need my cell phone, and disaster will surely strike if I can’t access my email.”

In a confessional moment, I must admit that this category hits fairly close to home. I love all these gadgets! The days of driving without a portable GPS are a distant and good-riddance memory. The days of having to actually find a phone to make a call have been relegated to my own personal dustbin of history. The days of waiting for the morning paper or the evening news to know what’s happening in the world seem archaic and restrictive.

I simply cannot remember how I lived without electronics. The danger is when I start to believe I can’t.

Electronics can fall into two camps — gadgets that help you stay connected and gadgets that help you disconnect. Both have their place in our lives. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” There is a time to email and a time to refrain from emailing. There is a time to turn on the television and a time to turn it off. There is a time to be online and a time to be offline. Since none of us have the wisdom of Solomon, how do we know when that is?

I have worked with people who experience unease, discomfort, and anxiousness if they are not able to stay digitally connected to the world or their work (which to some are the same thing). If they are out for an evening with family or friends, they’ll steal away in private to check their email on their BlackBerry. When they should be in bed asleep, they are instead blurry eyed in front of the computer screen. For these people there is no such thing as “downtime.” They experience a sense of dread and premonition of disaster if they stay too long without knowing exactly what’s going on in their corner of cyberspace.

I have also worked with people who consistently choose the mind-numbing effect of television, the computer, and all manner of games to escape the problems and the perils of the real world. Zoning out in front of the television is nothing new. However, when observing life becomes more important than living it, there’s a problem. When existing in cyberspace becomes more compelling than living life in the real world, there’s also a problem.

In some ways, electronic gaming combines the power of both the television and the computer. With games you have the visual punch and emotional story line of television along with the command and control features of the computer. With gaming, you become the storyline. When your avatars, alter egos, and digital doppelgangers are more present, more real, more engaging than anything real time has to offer, there’s a problem.

SOURCE: Chapter 2, “Examine Your Excess,” in Gotta Have It! by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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