MASTERING OUR SURFING HABITS
“THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER”
The Internet: the world's
greatest source of information and entertainment.
Indeed, the moment we
are connected, the “world is [our] oyster.” The advancement of the Internet has
enabled us to chat with someone thousands of miles away, take part in a cyber
auction, download the latest software or movie, read up on current affairs,
book a flight, and even order a pizza! The list is almost infinite.
Just type a word in
a search engine and you will have an endless list of the closest matches.
Download a program and you can immediately chat with someone, sign up to this
and that, receive offers and discounts, play games, get updates and e-mails,
and so on.
It's fun. It's
satisfying. It's addictive.
Since it's so
enjoyable, we begin to get pleasure out of it. We realize it makes us feel
good, so going online becomes second nature to us. We could say it becomes a
The definition of a
habit is "a settled way of behaving; something done frequently and almost
without thinking; something that is hard to give up."
The latter part of
the quote may be applicable to most of us. We may find the Internet hard to
give up because it has become integrated with our everyday lives. And if our
need to use the Internet develops good habits that keep our lives in order,
there is nothing wrong with that.
But the question is
when does using the Internet become a bad habit?
FROM HABIT TO PROBLEM
I've never owned a personal
computer or laptop, but it was still possible for me to access the Internet at
most times of the day. In hindsight, I suppose having only one computer in the
house was beneficial for me and my siblings.
Having one computer
would also mean having to compete with my siblings. The fact that the computer
was situated in my mom's room should have given me more self-control and
discipline. Most times it did; other times it didn't.
When we first
connected to the Internet, it was like Alice
in Wonderland! Click on this and that and you begin to explore another avenue. Type
in the keyword and the magic begins! Sign up here and the curiosity deepens. What
was a simple exploration became habitual surfing.
At what point does our
habit of using the Internet become a problem? You may casually think to
yourself, "I don't spend that much time on the internet. Why should this
question affect me?" From my experience, the point when I realized I had
crossed the fine line between a mere habit and a serious problem was when I was
able to type without having to look at my hands.
This wasn't a result
of attending typing classes or doing so many assignments during my university
years but more to do with the time I had spent chatting with friends via the
Internet. If I were to total up the amount of time spent on the Internet versus
the amount of time praying and reading the Bible, it wouldn’t take much brain
power to know the answer to this equation.
It became a problem
once it started to interfere with my body clock, family time, studies, and,
most importantly, my relationship with God. For others, it got out of control
when they found themselves sleeping during the first Sabbath service, after a
marathon of online games and futile chatting the night before.
Signs like these are
a good indication to us to change the way we use the Internet.
As James states, "But each one is tempted
when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed." Before you know it,
your habit masters you, not you mastering your habit. As Peter teaches us: "For
a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him" (2 Pet , NIV).
So what can we do
when we come to the realization of such a habit?
WEIGH IN OUR BAD HABITS
When we recognize
that we have bad habits, we need to take a good hard look at our situation.
We can use a pair of
weighing scales as an analogy to illustrate this point. When we have too many
bad habits, they will outweigh the good ones and cause an unequal balance. In
order to have more good habits you need less of the bad.
Some people might
have the misconception that, by adding good habits to the bad, the scale will
balance out. Having a balanced scale is not always the most effective solution;
especially when it comes to the way we live our Christian lives. And it doesn’t
resolve our problems if our bad habits still linger with us.
Sooner or later, they
will seep their way back into our lives. The only way to do this is to remove
the bad habits completely to give more weight to the good ones.
If, whenever we
notice bad habits, we just try to balance it out with good ones, the entire
scale actually gets heavier; our inner self will eventually become even more
burdened by the contradictory way in which we live our lives—having good habits
yet cyclically succumbing to the bad habits because we did not get rid of them.
The problem with
such a scale is that we did not remove the bad habits; rather, we compromised
with them. For example, you may use the Internet for educational or academic
purposes, but if you continue to engage in long-hour chats and video games, the
bad habit remains.
The key is to remove
the bad habits and not compromise with them. Let the good habits take root and
develop them. And when the good habits outweigh the bad ones, our inner self
will get stronger at facing the temptations of this world. The stronger and
more steadfast we are, the less likely the bad habits will tip the scale.
Bad habits are
easier to follow than good ones and it is difficult to break bad habits, but it
doesn't mean it's impossible. Even Paul had this inner struggle.
But now, it is no longer I who do
it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh)
nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is
good I do not find. (Rom 7:17-18)
This is not to
suggest that the use of the Internet is a sin. But there is a chance for our
bad habits to turn into a sin. Once our bad habits interfere with our time with
God and our relationship with other people, we will need to weigh our habits
and think, "What is it that compels us to find more interest with the
Internet rather than with God?"
We need to
acknowledge that we have this weakness. If we cannot be honest with ourselves,
can we examine ourselves effectively with a sincere heart? By adding good
habits to balance out the bad, this shows that we are not honest with ourselves
to really break the bad ones.
Being honest with
ourselves and examining our actions is the first step. The second step is to
break the Internet wave.
BREAK THE WAVE
If you find yourself
reaching for your computer mouse to click on the Internet icon again, ask
yourself, "Is there something I can do that is more productive and
worthwhile?" What are some of the practical solutions to control our habit
of using the Internet too much?
the cause of the problem
This doesn't mean
to disconnect the Internet from every computer or laptop in your household. If
there are more than a few computers or laptops, one suggestion is to have only
one computer connected. Place the computer in a public room. For those who take
their laptop to-and-from work, is it essential to bring it home?
Take up an unusual
hobby. If you find your fingers itching take up an activity that will keep them
busy. Maybe you’ll want to explore something you’ve always wanted to learn: arts
and crafts, pottery, journal writing, or anything that doesn’t require a computer.
Set a time
Set a time when you
can use the Internet and stick to a certain time limit. This will exercise your
self-control and will become part of your routine rather than an addictive bad
Take up a sport or go
for a brisk walk. Exercise can be very empowering and satisfying, and it is
good for your body, mind and soul.
Make a concerted effort with fellow
Sometimes, it is
very difficult to stay away from the Internet if all our friends continue with
the bad habit while we are the only one making the effort. This is really the
time that we can help each other improve ourselves. Make a pact with fellow
brothers and sisters to break the wave. Encourage and support one another to
spend our time on healthier activities.
Organize your life
so you know which things are more important. Place God in the centre of your
life rather than revolve your life around the Internet. I still like to chat
with friends online, but I've managed to do this in a more effective and
conventional method. Writing letters by hand prove to be more meaningful and
personal. Even though you don't receive an instant reply, you have a chance to
express your true character rather than chat impulsively without much thought.
Though owning a computer is essential to our studies, I've managed not to own
one and just use the university's facilities or share the computer at home. It
is a struggle, but it has improved my organization skills and punctuality, and
it has helped me keep my time on the Internet to as brief as possible.
Paul makes a very
good point in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but all things
are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under
the power of any.”
In other words, we
have everything available within our reach but not all things are beneficial.
It's like seeing a huge dinner table with many different types of delicious
foods. We can choose to eat anything from that table but not everything is
It's good to treat
yourself to a chocolate cake but do you seriously want more chocolate cake
knowing it just expands your waistline and will never feed your cravings?
He also reminds us, "Set
your minds on things above, not on things in the earth" (Col
3:2). If we can place our mind and thoughts on things that really matter, the
things of the world will not matter so much.
We, as children of
God, have been given the Holy Spirit to aid us and guide us. We have such a
wonderful gift that we can distinguish right and wrong; a good habit from a bad
one. We will know how to use the Internet moderately rather than excessively.
Break the habit that
hinders us from spending time with God. If we can set our minds on Him, He will
surely help us overcome our shortcomings.
Living in a constantly
changing society is not easy. We become exposed to new technological advances,
and the application of the Internet is vast and wide. It will bring us more
temptations and desires, and we can be enticed by them.
"And do not be conformed to
this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove
what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2).
One of the key words
is "renewing." We need to give ourselves a constant spiritual refill
of the Holy Spirit. The only way to do this is by constant self examination.
Through constant self-examination and spiritual cultivation, we are able to
realize that there is more to our lives than the Internet. We will be able to
step away from the edge of temptation and step out of our bad habits.
Only then we can
truly say, "I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor ).