Nineteen Quotes from Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family

Andy Crouch’s recent The Tech-Wise Family (Baker, 2017) is excellent. Highly recommended, especially but not only for parents. To induce you to read the book, here are nineteen of my favorite passages. I would’ve picked twenty, but then I would’ve had to ask Matt Smethurst’s permission before posting.

  1. “Here is the heart of the paradox: Technology is a brilliant, praiseworthy expression of human creativity and cultivation of the world. But it is at best neutral in actually forming human beings who can create and cultivate as we were meant to.” (66)
  2. “Technology is good at serving human beings. It even—as in medical or communication technology—saves human lives. It does almost nothing to actually form human beings in the things that make them worth serving and saving.” (66)
  3. “Work is the fruitful transformation of the world through human effort and skill, in ways that serve our shared human needs and give glory to God.” (83)
  4. “This pattern [of weekly rest] is fundamental to human flourishing, and to the flourishing of the whole world that depends on our care, but it has been disrupted and distorted by human greed and sloth. Instead of work and rest, we have ended up with toil and leisure—and neither one is an improvement. And strangely enough, technology, which promised to make work easier and rest more enjoyable, often has exactly the opposite effect.” (84)
  5. “If toil is fruitless labor, you could think of leisure as fruitless escape from labor. It’s a kind of rest that doesn’t really restore our souls, doesn’t restore our relationships with others or God. And crucially, it is the kind of rest that doesn’t give others the chance to rest. Leisure is purchased from other people who have to work to provide us our experiences of entertainment and rejuvenation.” (87)
  6. “Maybe the high-water mark of leisure at home was that 1970s invention, the ‘TV Dinner’—a prepackaged meal reheated and served in front of the television, the ultimate leisure device. Instead of conversation at a table set with a dinner prepared with care and often skill, the family ‘enjoying’ a TV dinner had both their food and their conversation provided by others.” (90)
  7. “What happens to families when the home becomes a leisure zone? One of the most damaging results, as the philosopher Albert Borgmann has pointed out, is that children never see their parents acting with wisdom and courage in the world of work.” (90)
  8. “When it comes to technology, most of us are more like alcoholics than we are like sourpussed teetotalers—and most of us desperately need an infusion of intentionality about technology into our lives more than we need release from overly limited, legalistic restrictions.” (103)
  9. “And even at their best, social media, like all media, substitute distant relationships for close ones. A fifteen-year-old overcome by anxiety late at night might once have had no choice but to turn to her parents, down the hall from her bedroom, for help and counsel. Now she can send out a blizzard of text messages to friends who, completely understandably, feel obligated to respond—and feel gratified by the sense of being needed by a friend. But this text- and emoji-mediated social support is thin, an echo chamber of teenagers with their limited perspective. It keeps a whole circle of friends awake late into the night and robs that fifteen-year-old and her parents (or even older siblings) of an in-person conversation, one that could be painful, challenging, reassuring, or even transformative.” (117)
  10. “The last thing you need when you are learning, at any age but especially in childhood, is to have things made too easy.” (127)
  11. “We most often give our children screens not to make their lives easier but to make our lives easier.” (130)
  12. “[T]he quest to cure boredom with entertainment actually makes the problem worse. But it works the other way around as well. The less we rely on screens to occupy and entertain our children, the more they become capable of occupying and entertaining themselves.”
  13. “In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you entertain children, the more bored they will get.” (141)
  14. “There is nothing in our society that has surrendered more completely, and more catastrophically, to technology’s basic promise, easy everywhere, than sex.” (165)
  15. “All addictions feed on, and are strengthened by, emptiness.” (171)
  16. “At the root of the disappearance of shared singing in public life and our churches is one of the most profound changes in the history of human beings, who have made music, as far as we can tell, from the very beginning. Up until about one hundred years ago, there was only one meaning to the phrase ‘play music.’ It meant that someone had to take up an instrument, having developed at least some skill, and make music, in person, in real time. They were not always expert musicians—the diaries and novels of the nineteenth century are full of rueful comments about how poorly some cousin played the piano in the family parlor. But there was only one way for music to be ‘played’—and that was for someone to play it.” (185)
  17. “Worship calls us out of the small pleasures of an easy-everywhere world to the real joy and burden of bearing the image of God in a world where nothing is easy, everything is broken, and yet redemption is possible.” (189)
  18. “Simply, singing may be the one human activity that most perfectly combines heart, mind, soul, and strength.” (191)
  19. “Of course, much of the distance between us and people we love is itself the result of technology. It is partly because of air travel that we can imagine sending our children thousands of miles away from home in the first place; we can move away from our parents for a new job, or simply a more exciting location, knowing that we can visit them with a relatively easy car or plane trip. Technology, which does so much to close the distance, also enables much of the distance in our lives.” (198)