My Tech-Wise Life

Written by Amy Crouch
Published on January 08, 2021

When we engage with technology, we’re surrounded by messages that our lives are missing something. Reminders of our imperfection are always lurking in our pockets.

What do we do about this? Technology isn’t going to magically disappear from the face of the earth, and we don’t want it to. Our phones and the internet don’t just make us insecure, they also improve our lives. We can connect with faroff friends and family, we can educate ourselves on any topic imaginable, we can search for creative inspiration—not to mention the little ways tech helps, like telling us the weather, reminding us of our to-do lists, and counting our steps. Like everything in our lives, tech both helps and hurts us. So how can we appreciate the help but avoid the hurt?

My parents thought a lot about this when Timothy and I were little. How would they teach us to take the good and leave the bad? How could tech serve us without controlling us? As I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a single answer. Rather, they took a number of small steps. We didn’t have a TV while my brother and I were young, and when we eventually got one, we only watched movies together. We never had a video game console, either. We weren’t a tech-free family, but the screens we did have belonged to our whole family, and we arranged our house so they didn’t take over our living space. Among other things, being part of a tech-wise family meant I didn’t have a smartphone until high school, although I could use a computer and an iPod. I never played video games, although my brother ended up playing Wii occasionally at friends’ houses. I also didn’t have any social media until I was about fifteen, despite my fifth-grade friends urging me to get on Facebook (more about that later). While my classmates started to discover social media in elementary school, it wasn’t part of my life for years.

Maybe you know what this is like; I’ve met a few friends whose parents had similar views on tech and social media. But this might sound strange to you—maybe really awful. Maybe you’ve had great experiences online and think I truly missed out. Maybe you’re just confused. What did I do with my time? And maybe you’re wondering if I’ll start telling you to delete all your online accounts and throw your phone off the nearest cliff. Well, I understand that confusion. Ever since my friends started to discover technology, I’ve had to explain my family’s weird choices to people. I know these choices seem puzzling, maybe even pointless. But I hope that by sharing some pieces of my life, I might help you start to think about the role technology plays in yours. Living wisely with technology isn’t onesize-fits-all; you have to do some self-searching to discover how tech will tempt you and how tech will help you.

If you’re pitying me for my low-tech childhood, you’re not alone. When people hear about my strange family, they often worry that I missed out on television and video games and the internet. But actually, I’m struck by what I don’t remember. I don’t remember feeling embarrassed because I had no Instagram, or lonely because I couldn’t Snap my friends. I certainly noticed that my family was unusual, but I can’t find any painful memories relating to it. My friends were sometimes confused as to why I couldn’t just join Facebook, but my absence from social media wasn’t really a problem.

But as I grew up, I couldn’t rely only on my parents’ instructions. I had to figure out for myself what my tech-wise life would mean. And I can assure you that I made some mistakes along the way, which brings us back to me crying in my bedroom over Instagram.

Technology promises so much—to connect us, to save our memories, to keep us entertained. And it often delivers on these promises.

Yet it also fails.

If you’ve felt disheartened or disconnected by technology, you’re not alone. In fact, teens who use technology a lot are more likely to say that they don’t have someone to turn to for help (20 percent among high users versus 14 percent among others). Our devices aren’t helping everyone connect, and they aren’t making everyone happy.

In my experience, social media is one of the biggest examples of this. Its promise to help us document and share our lives is true—but it can also bring pain.

The thing is, when we try to document our lives, we start to notice that our lives are not always the best documentary material. (Some people avoid this conclusion. Their stories take five minutes to tap through and give us plentiful information about their bus ride or second cousin’s third birthday. But they’re rare.) Our lives aren’t always camera-ready. They’re full of dreary, ordinary moments we don’t especially want to remember twenty years from now, moments of exhaustion and sadness and frustration.

By the standards of social media, our lives are pretty poor. we don’t have to compare ourselves Maybe you’re not too worried about how you appear on social media. I’m so glad of that. But everyone I’ve ever met is worried about something. We’re one of the most anxious generations to date; we fear uncertain futures, worry about our present lives, and regret the past.

Again and again in our lives, we’ll be overwhelmed by these anxieties and insecurities. Maybe it’ll be from social media’s false standards, which tell us we’re not entertaining enough to be worthy. Or maybe it won’t be from technology at all. But even if the source of our fear isn’t technology, our devices can make it worse; in our darkest moments, our phones will nag us with constant reminders that everyone else seems to be doing way better.

So, what do we do about this? What do we do when these seemingly tiny moments tear open our scars? Well, tech promises plenty of ways to help. The internet is a quick source of comfort. We can soothe ourselves by watching someone seem even stupider and weaker than us; we can text friends; we can read over admiring comments on social media.

Here’s what I hope we can commit to: when our daily troubles and lurking fears overwhelm us, let’s not turn to tech. You and I—we are broken, ragged people. We can’t be healed by technology’s seamless flow. We need fellowship with our broken, ragged friends. Sharing with others sometimes feels impossible. It takes courage and vulnerability to confess our self-doubts, and it’s so much easier to put on a confident face and lie. And yet the only way to find peace from our insecurities is through community. Eventually I realized tech couldn’t fix me.

At a time when I was struggling, unhappy about how I looked in photos a friend had posted on social media, I realized tech couldn’t fix me. So I sent my youth pastor, Bethany, a text for help. I didn’t say much, I just told her I was having a hard time and needed some love. We went to dinner together, and I told her about what had engulfed me, about the dark, cold place those photos had plunged me into. She embraced me, she prayed with me, and she told me about the bad photos of her own she had cringed over and the scars her self-doubts had left. We talked and wept and broke bread together. And at some beautifully invisible moment, we both just started to laugh. We laughed because we suddenly saw the smallness of these insecurities; even the very worst pain our doubts put us through was nothing compared to the light and love of God. Three hours after I had been sobbing on my bed, broken by my ugly insecurities, I went home with a joyful heart full of the peace of community.

Please don’t let self-doubt paralyze you. When you hate the skin you’re in, don’t gloss over it—share in person. Pray with your friends or your family. Cry together, laugh together, and remember who you truly are. This is the relief you cannot get from kind texts or viral videos or games. It’s the relief you feel when you bare your wounds to someone else, and they reach out to embrace you. Through love, not tech, we will find peace.

WHAT TO DO NEXT Practices for Your Tech-Wise Life

» The first step to being tech-wise is to think. Think about your relationship with tech. When does tech bring you joy? When does it make you anxious? What would you like to change? These questions will help you figure out where you need to take action.

» We can’t be tech-wise alone. So, next, have an honest conversation with your friends or family about tech. Our use of devices has been too often shown to contribute to insecurity, anxiety, and a host of other problems. Ask questions. Listen to each other’s stories. Think about the different ways you can all work on your relationship with technology.

 » But as much as I hope you use screens more wisely, that’s not the ultimate goal. Screens aren’t the fundamental problem; they make our other struggles and fears worse. So I want you to look beyond screens.

 » I hope you can identify the people you can turn to for help, whether it’s tech-related or not. Have you been struggling on your own without asking for support? I promise it’ll be a relief to share what’s hurting you.

» On this note, pay attention to your friends. It’s easy for us to get lost in our own troubles, but we’re surrounded by other people who need help. Think about how you can encourage each person you love, even when they seem to be doing fine. Offer yourself as a listener. Be the kind of friend you need.

Excerpted from My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices by Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch. © 2020 Amy Crouch. Published by Baker Books. Used by permission.

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Amy Crouch

Amy Crouch, is a student at Cornell University studying linguistics, English, and anything else she can fit into her schedule. She loves to cook, climb mountains, and chat about books. Now 20 years old, she was 19 when she completed her first book, My Tech-Wise Life.

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