Under the Influence of Technology: Narcissism by the Numbers

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Watchman Nee once said, “If you would test the character of anything, you only need to inquire whether that thing leads you to God or away from God.”

The average American watches five hours of television a day. The good news is the fact that amount is slightly less than it was about 25 years ago. The bad news is we now have personal computers, iPads, iPhones, Xbox’s, and other devices to steal even more of our time.

This hi-tech, ‘Me’ generation is growing up with distractions and temptations prior generations had not faced. Technology is not all bad, but it is infecting our culture, family time, and our personal relationships.

Millennials spend an average of 17 hours a day engaged in some form of media. Obviously, some of the time overlaps. In other words, you can check your email online while watching television or be on your iPhone while listening to the radio.

Here’s the breakdown: according to mediapost.com, nearly half of that time – about 8.5 hours a day – is taken up with surfing the web, social media, online chatting, and texting. Watching television is next (23%), then playing computer/video games (10%), watching movies (7%), listening to the radio (7%), and reading (3%).

Here’s some perspective: several of America’s earliest presidents, patriots, and Founding Fathers were enrolled in college between the ages of twelve and sixteen years-old. Founding Father and author of the First Amendment, Fischer Ames graduated from Harvard at 16 years-old.

One of the greatest scientists in history, Sir Isaac Newton, began studying the books of Daniel and Revelation when he was just ten years-old. Throughout his career, he wrote much more about Scripture than he did about science as he believed his scientific research reinforced the truth of the Bible.

What’s the point?

Some of the greatest men of God not only started reading much earlier in life, but their parents helped them build their foundation and worldview on Scripture. They simply did not have all the modern “conveniences,” media, and forms of entertainment we have today, and one end product is narcissism.

Let’s examine the latest growing obsession: taking your own picture with an iPhone. Two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, and one report estimated that some 93 million “selfies” are taken every day.

Sadly, since 2014, selfies have been the cause of over fifty deaths worldwide. The Telegraph in the UK stated that more people died last year taking selfies than were killed in shark attacks.

UPDATE: “You know the selfie movement is getting a little out of control when a 26-year-old man takes a picture on a hijacked plane … with the plane’s hijacker. That’s exactly what happened aboard an EgyptAir flight, when Ben Innes took a photo with Seif Eldin Mustafa, who had proclaimed that he was wearing a bomb vest. Innes explained that he felt like he had “nothing to lose.” [relevantmagazine.com, 3/30/16]

On a site called Snapchat, 74% of the images shared are selfies. This is a sign of the times in which a self-absorbed portion of the population gets sucked into a meaningless activity unknown to mankind a few decades ago.

On Instagram, about 1,000 selfies are posted every 10 seconds. Taking ‘ridiculous’ to the next level, nearly forty percent of those images are altered or enhanced. This means young people are taking extra time to doctor up their own picture before “sharing” or posting it for friends and fans to see.

Ready to add up the hours? Various sources estimate that today’s teens now spend about 168 hours each year taking selfies. Let that sink in a moment:

Today’s teenagers spend a full seven days out of the year taking pictures of themselves.

Writers for a Wisconsin youth ministry, Rawhide.org, say this selfie trend simply reinforces narcissistic tendencies, including “extreme self-centeredness and a grandiose view of oneself, excessive need for admiration and attention …arrogant behaviors or attitudes, and fantasies revolving around personal success and attractiveness.”

Who hasn’t seen kids at a restaurant using their iPhones continuously and practically ignoring those they are with? Our communication and relationships are rapidly changing – and not for the better.

This is the new normal in the United States of Entertainment. Parents, don’t get mad. You might recall when Self was a best-selling magazine in the eighties and still has millions of print and online readers today.

Some moms and dads are also being distracted by their mobile devices which doesn’t set a good example for their children. According to an NBC News report, researchers observed 55 caregivers with young children at fast-food restaurants. Of those, 73% used mobile devices during the meal.

One of the saddest findings was the fact that nearly 30% used their iPhones almost continuously – at the restaurant.

Across the pond, The Guardian reports school-aged children in England spend three hours a day on line, two hours watching television, and only about thirty minutes a day reading. They did not factor in video or computer games.

‘Seasoned’ adults are catching on as well. Those between 55-65 years-old used online dating apps last year, and nearly thirty percent of 18 to 24-year-olds were doing online dating.

Movies are also a form of entertainment that can be an escape from reality, but can also suck countless hours from our lives if we are not careful. Netflix users streamed a collective 42.5 billion hours’ worth of programming online last year, a combination of movies and original programming. There are over 75 million Netflix accounts and the average stream time was about an hour and a half every day.

What would our great grandparents think about all this? More importantly for Christians, what does Jesus think?

We have three main things to offer the One who created us: our time, talents, and treasure. Let’s take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we use His resources. Are you and I spending them on ourselves or are we investing our lives in His kingdom?

So teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12


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2 Responses to Under the Influence of Technology: Narcissism by the Numbers

  1. Kathy March 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    I have been extremely upset to see people in the food court, constantly on their phones while with others. We are losing the ability to communicate with a real person! The nice sit down restaurant I go to,is full of parents and kids all on their phones! People are almost catatonic while staring at their phones. I have a cell, but rarely take it out. Not interested in social media , a waste of time. I have tons of books to read on my Kindle!!! But I do not read when with others. To me that is rude!!

  2. Judith April 14, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

    Agree with you Kathy. It is ridiculous & rude as you say!