In today's world, technology can help connect people across the globe through phone calls, email, television and the Internet. Such convenience and abundant connectivity can be a great resource in how a person understands the world around them, but it can also serve as a major distraction between a person and their immediate surroundings.
At Oklahoma Baptist University, an annual emphasis called Focus Week is dedicated to helping members of the OBU community strengthen relationships. The theme for Focus Week 2012 was "Incarnational Relationships." Dr. Hance Dilbeck, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., delivered messages not only about incarnational relationships, but also about how technology affects such relationships.
Dilbeck's sermons exposed the troubles of the abundance of technology among young people today and how these technologies can hinder a person in their outward relationships with God and others around them. He said that the idea of being "everywhere" with phones, email or the Internet can actually make a person feel "nowhere."
Based on this premise, a new challenge has been given to students and faculty at OBU: to make a personal commitment to minimize use of technological distractions. Called a "Technology Fast," the challenge is meant to help people to focus on relationships with God and others and to encourage development of long-term alternatives to disruptive technology-use patterns.
"It gives you a great perspective on how much we rely on technology and how much time is really wasted on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or texting," said Caitlin Carpenter, a sophomore from Arlington, Texas. "I'm not saying any of those things are bad, because I do think they can help build relationships. But it just makes you aware of how you spend your time and how you communicate with others."
Carpenter says the fast helped her to gain independence from technology and to grow spiritually.
"College is a time of testing, inquiry and discovery," said Odus Compton, director of student ministry at OBU. "A fast of this kind could be a very challenging and revealing process in most every area of our lives. Our whole life is affected by the things we allow to be a part of our lives, and sometimes the only way we know that effect is by removing those things, at least for a while."
Students who participate in the challenge are not expected to cut all technology out of their lives, but they are encouraged to limit the amount of time and energy spent focusing on technological distractions. The challenge can include a partial "fast" of Facebook, Twitter, texting, television, email or time spent on the Internet. Guides with suggested ways to observe the fast were provided to students during a campus chapel service.