The Pull of Digital Technology is Unique

Second, the fact that the “Technology Fasts” are limited to “Internet stuff” might indicate just how uniquely powerful that Internet stuff really is. Since the advent of industrialization and urbanization, there have been calls to return to nature, to leave the hustle and bustle of city life and surround ourselves with nature. But so far I haven’t seen any evidence that people called this sort of thing a “Tech Sabbath” or that anyone recommended turning off steam-powered machines or electrical devices as a spiritual practice.

I think this means that there is something distinct about “Internet stuff” and the pull that it seems to have upon us. The studies that show how each retweet, like, and comment triggers an addictive dopamine release suggests smartphones are more physiologically and psychologically powerful than, say, a dishwasher. And the fact that we give them up as a spiritual practice suggests that they may have a kind of spiritual powerful as well, at least in the sense of their capacity for idolatry.

John Dyer


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