You Didn't Search For This
By David Mohler
$32,850, your search history, and the murder of an unarmed person of color by the authorities. Sorry about the clickbait. I’m not trying to advertise a viral video or the latest news clip, but these three things do have something to do with you reading this post. Let me explain and tell you about a couple of my problems.
MY SEARCH PROBLEM
I watch a lot of clips on YouTube. I don’t know about you, but I am amazed by the YouTube algorithm’s ability to dig up clips that are absolutely fascinating and irresistible. It seems at times, like the YouTube algorithm knows my tastes better than I do since it routinely suggests intriguing clips that I can’t help but watch. And that’s part of the problem, considering I try to be a conscious consumer of digital content. I use an app to track my screen time and I found that last week alone, I spent 17 hours watching YouTube clips. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed.
The average person in my generation spends almost six hours a day on their phone
Now I may be an over-achiever on the YouTube platform, but I know that I am not outside of the norm when it comes to digital media. The average person in my generation spends almost six hours a day on their phone (source) and that’s where $32,850 comes in. That’s the amount of money you could earn, if the six hours you spend on your phone could be used making $15 an hour. Of course, that amount is spread across the 58 times (source) that you picked up your phone during the day. Maybe you didn’t make any money from your phone, but Google did. Their $632B business is built on impulse searches and crave-feeding algorithms.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ‘ Matthew 6:21
MY TREASURE PROBLEM
I know I’m late to the game when it comes to screen-conscious warnings. There is a lot of good content already out there that is worth reading—links below.
Our phones are our wallets and in the attention economy our browser history shows our spending
Here’s the point. Our phones are our wallets and in the attention economy our browser history shows our spending. As we head into November and more of the 2020 madness, the headlines and breaking stories are going to continue to notify us about every injustice in every corner of our world. Is it wrong to be invested in politics or passionate about justice? I don’t have anything personally profound to provide; instead I think Thomas Akempis said it best in 1441 when he wrote in The Imitation of Christ :
“You will make great spiritual progress if you keep your nose out of the other people’s business; you will surely fail if you do not. The soul that loves God sets little value on anything less than God. He is the soul’s comfort and true joy.” -Thomas Akempis
I would suggest that a 2020 reading of Matthew 6:21 could be: “where your browser history is, there will your heart be also.” Literally as I have prepared to write this piece I have watched YouTube clips, worried about headlines, and struggled with lust. I am not naive enough to think I am alone in this.
If our treasure is invested in injustices spanning the globe and not on the single greatest act of injustice, our treasure is misplaced and our hearts will never find rest. If you feel overwhelmed by the drama of current events, you are not alone. You were not made to carry the weight of the world.
A COUPLE REMINDERS:
We are not all-present
Our devices can trick us into feeling omni-present by allowing us to follow global events in real-time
God alone is all-present
We are not all-powerful
Our democracy can trick us into feeling all-powerful as we channel our outrage into polls, voting, and protests
God alone is all-powerful
So how can we use our devices, search tools, and algorithms for the kingdom? Thankfully Jesus gives us the answer later on in Matthew 6. We need to stop following the algorithm and start searching for the kingdom.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness Matthew 6:33
If we are constantly outraged by the injustices around us, we are unable to deal with the injustices that we commit. As followers of Jesus, let’s be committed to dealing with injustice, starting in our hearts, homes, workplaces, and communities. As we move closer to November, I know that the algorithm will continue to suggest alarmist headlines and apocalyptic predictions. As I pick up my phone throughout the day and seek to use my screentime well, I hope that my search history reflects the news surrounding the murder by the authorities of an innocent and unarmed person of color 2000 years ago.
FOR FURTHER READING:
–12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You | Tony Reinke
–Competing Spectacles | Tony Reinke
–The Practice of the Presence of God | Brother Lawrence
–The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry | John Mark Comer