My years researching the interrelationships between digital culture, creative process, and biblical thought at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and as professor at Columbia University and universities in Israel has inspired me to write Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media. The book reveals a Bible cure for smartphone addiction plaguing millions worldwide.
Smartphones present a paradox of digital culture that is both freeing and enslaving. They offer links to the whole world resting in the palm of your hand. However, the fear and anxiety of being cut off from those links can lead to a serious disorder that psychologists call “nomophobia,” an abbreviation for “NO-MObile-PHOne phoBIA.”
The intensity of this global epidemic becomes evident in a Google search “smartphone addiction” that yields 42,500,000 sites. 7,450,000 people search for “cures for smartphone addictions.” Scientific papers in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions and other journals of psychology and public health claim that smartphones are the biggest non-drug addiction of the 21st century.
I wrote Through a Bible Lens in the language of smartphones and social media to reach millennials, the most addicted population, while teaching all generations the most up-to-date thoughts on how the Bible offers fresh insights on the impact of new technologies on contemporary life.
In the Beginning God Created Media Systems
The cure for smartphone addiction is hidden in the Genesis creation narrative that begins: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1). To place this verse in a contemporary context, I translated it from the original Hebrew into the language of digital culture:
“In the network of networks, God created media systems for creating heaven and earth. When the earth was absolutely empty and dark, God created light and separated between light and darkness (1 and 0).” (Genesis 1, 2)
The Hebrew word for “in the beginning” is beresheet, akin to the word bereshet meaning “network.” The media system of heaven, the spiritual realm, is made up of the 22 Hebrew letters that form all the words of the Bible.
The media system of earth, the material realm, is written with electrons and protons that form atoms and molecules. Supersized molecules like DNA contain the code of all life forms written with two pairs of two letters: A-T, T-A and C-G, G-C, on the rungs of double helix ladders revealed in the plants, fish, birds, animals, and human beings created on third, fifth, and sixth days of Creation.
Heaven, Earth and Hidden Light
There is a third media system that has been hidden from us since the Torah was received on Mt. Sinai. Perhaps it is the hidden light of creation called Ohr Ganuz that cannot be the light that we see emanating from the sun and stars that was not created until the fourth day of Creation. This light created on the first day of Creation is a media system made up of just two “letters,” light and darkness.
It is the light being simultaneous revealed to billions of people worldwide as they swipe their fingers across their smartphone screens. This global media system, the digital realm, returns us to the primeval binary creation of light and darkness, 1 and 0, on and off. “God separated between the light and darkness.”(Genesis 1:4)
Unprepared for this rapid exposure to this addicting digital light, millions are finding themselves drawn away from the spiritual dimensions of living in a material world. However, humanity is blessed that God has provided the cure on the seventh day of Creation with a plan for rebooting our lives.
Turn Off, Tune Out, Unplug
“On six days do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of compete rest, holy to God.” (Exodus 35:2)
Adopt the formula instituted millennia ago to free the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt to free you from being enslaved by digital technologies that too often rule all our waking hours. This verse from the Ten Commandments enjoins us to remember what it was to be a slave who never had a break from the repetitive sameness of life day after day.
Observing a Sabbath day by turning off, tuning out, and unplugging once a week is the first step in curing smartphone addiction. It was an unprecedented concept in the ancient world with potent relevance in today’s digital culture.
Make every seventh day different from the other six days of the week. Just tune into God’s creations rather than human creations. Enjoy family and friends, walk in the forest and fields, and watch the sunrise and sunset.
Shabbat is a Divine gift to all people for all time. You are invited to observe Shabbat as a powerful way to free you from being enslaved by technological wizardry. On the eighth day, return with renewed energies to being immersed in the amazing technological wonders of our era knowing that you are free to tune out, turn off and unplug on the next Shabbat.
The highly acclaimed book Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media is available at Amazon and other Internet booksellers and bookstores