Invasion of the Pod People: Technology – Friend or Foe?

 
Body Snatchers Slider
By Lee Roscoe, Contributing Writer

A largely unnoticed threat, oblivious to the general public, is aggressively invading and attacking the minds and bodies of our population causing serious life-threatening problems in the lives of children, students, parents, educators, and pastors, among others. Left unhindered, this threat will seriously endanger future generations unless we wake up, identify, confront and counteract this threat by taking informed, aggressive, and calculated steps to reverse its crippling and harmful consequences.

In the 1956 Science Fiction classic film, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the main character, Miles Bennel, is called away from a medical convention early by his office staff because they are experiencing an unusually large influx of patients with strange, but similar stories. These patients claim their relatives are not themselves; that they have been replaced by imposters who act strangely unemotional and distant; and, that they do not know what do to about their family and friends’ threatening and frightening behavior and condition. After arriving back at his office, Miles investigates his patients’ claims, finding them to be accurate and of disastrously epidemic proportions. He learns someone is trucking in huge, mysterious, plant-like pods that have the appearance of anatomical pouches. Miles also finds out that the imposter townspeople aggressively try to position these pods as near as possible to healthy, normal residents not yet demonstrating the detached and unemotional symptoms described by his patients. Slowly, Miles unravels the mystery of how the normal townspeople disappear and a cold-hearted replica, complete with identical scaring and features making them almost impossible to identify, takes their place. Once a pod is surreptitiously placed in a home or other location in close contact with normal human beings, the anatomical pouch clones the child or adult with all the dysfunctions noticed by Mile’s patients. Then, while the original, normal, healthy human sleeps, they are replaced with the duplicate imposter, consequently found to be devoid of normal feelings, emotions and individuality, making them incapable of living a normal life because their sense of individuality has perished. These imposters then work to aggressively seek out the remaining normal humans to entrap them into duplication. Soon, Miles finds himself combating this terrifying menace alone as the entire town’s citizens are duplicated imposters. At one point, a panicky Miles runs into the nearby highway among the traffic yelling warnings, “You’re next!”[1]

The film’s director, Don Siegel, said, “To be a pod means you have no passion, no empathy, you talk automatically. The spark of life has left you.”[2]

Just as the pod-produced duplicate imposters in this movie illustration deviously invaded and took over the hearts, minds, souls, and appearance of their normal human counterparts, so scholarly research into the impact of technology on our human brains is dramatically and alarmingly substantiating without question that our current use of technology is insidiously reconditioning our brains. As a result, we are, in essence, becoming duplicate, imposter “pod” people. We’re replacing the real world of sleeping, eating, working, studying, exercising, relating to family, friends and the Lord in person with being completely absorbed in, and preoccupied with, the digital world of technology.

Daniel Sieberg, an Emmy-nominated and award-winning television science correspondent states:  “This technology invasion has been systematic, silent and is destroying many parts of our lives.”[3]

A tragic case in point is the fact this research documents that technology addiction was found responsible for the deaths of several video game players in South Korea. They were so immersed in their video games that, for hours on end, they refused to eat or even go to the bathroom and, subsequently, were found dead slumped over their gaming computers.[4]

As in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, how can we acknowledge, confront, warn our society, “You’re next,” and finally defeat this invasive invasion of the negative aspects of technology?

The Bible, in Hosea 4:6, gives us a major clue to winning the battles and the war ahead: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. . .” It also gives us a warning – “because thou hast rejected knowledge. . .”[5] In other words, we must learn, accept and apply the truth about this threatening situation without hesitation rather than reject it as implausible because of a certain bias we may have regarding our involvement with technology. Acting on the facts will deliver us. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”[6].

Before explaining how technology is, in fact, deviously rearranging our brains negatively as a foe, here is the “friend” or the positive, bright side of technology from Dr. Archibald Hart’s highly recommended and extraordinarily perceptive book, “The Digital Invasion”:

            1. Instant access to a wealth of information anywhere in the world from our computers

            2. Social media (e.g., Facebook) have opened up many social interaction avenues

            3. Email beats “snail mail” in speed and effectiveness

            4. You can purchase almost anything in the world using online shopping

            5. Instant, worldwide communication available via Facebook, Skype, smart phones, etc. (a real boon to family and friends (e.g., missionaries) scattered around the world

            6. Texting: instant communication and connection in almost any setting

            7. To help with our Christian walk, iTunes gives us access to a wide variety of Christian music and sermons

            8. Access to a wide variety of Bible translations in every major language anywhere in the world

            9. Easily accessible digital books and textbooks for students, especially home schoolers. If unable to purchase the text, most all research is available from the Internet[7]

 

Considering the above, what is this negative side of technology? How can it be our foe? Dr. Hart states:  “The changes that technology is bringing are so rapid that they are outstripping the human brain’s ability to adapt.”[8] This opinion is reinforced by Dr. Gary Small, a respected researcher and director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at UCLA:

“The current explosion of digital technology is, not only, changing the way we live and communicate, but also, is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. Daily exposure to high technology (e.g., computers, smart phones, video games, search engines like Google and Yahoo) stimulates brain cell alteration. . . . While the brains of today’s ‘Digital Natives’ (i.e., the current generation of students who are growing up with technology) are wiring up for rapid-fire cyber searches, the neural circuits that control the more traditional learning methods are neglected and gradually diminished. The pathways for human interaction and communication weaken as customary one-on-one people skills atrophy.”[9]

In essence, whether technology is a friend or foe in our lives depends on how we manage it. Mismanagement will increase our propensity for addiction and undermine our basic humanness. Research confirms that over dependence on technology already is adversely changing our brain functions. Recovery may be impossible if we don’t take action immediately.

Areas of the brain impacted by technology and the negative consequences from excessive exposure:

1. The pleasure system: dopamine flooding and anhedonia leading to addiction;

2. The tranquility system: elevated cortisol levels due to digital addictions can lead to serious health problems such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood pressure;

3. The memory system: demands for “multi-tasking” – which actually is “sequential tasking” – reduces our ability to retain information (experts tell us the brain has a limited memory system). We are at our best when we do one task at a time;

4. The learning system: learning is brain-based. The education process changes the brain not body functions. No permanent learning occurs when the brain experiences neural system or brain fatigue. Digital distractions from technology contribute to brain fatigue and lack of downtime needed by the brain to process the information being learned. No downtime also disrupts creativity. Finally, the lack of adequate sleep significantly hinders learning, focus and remembering;

5. The attachment system: relating biblically to God, relatives, spouse, children, co-workers, other Christians, which is the ability to form friendships. Thus, we need general human attachment in-person not via technology. Addictions to technology by our brain detach us from people and greatly reduce the ability to relate;

6. The spiritual system: rude use of technology in church services interfering with true worship.

Please note:  Allowing technology to dominate our brain will, overall, cost us reduced productivity and increased human misery. Our brain must have down time in order to allow it to perform necessary functions as it is designed by God to do on its own such as problem solving, reasoning, fighting infections, repairing damage and consolidating learning or memory.[10]

The human brain does not fully mature until around the age of 24/25. Before that, according to Dr. Ted Baehr, all children pass through the following five stages of cognitive growth:

1. The sensation stage (ages birth to age two): marked by self-centeredness and the child depends on their senses to process what is real;

2. The imagination stage  (ages two to seven): marked by very active imagination, frequently confusing fact and fiction and very susceptible to what they see on TV and at the movies;

3. The concrete operational stage (ages seven to eleven):  marked by assuming their thoughts about reality are correct and, in fact, purposely distorting the facts to fit their perception of reality;

4. The reflections or formal operations stage  (ages twelve to fifteen): marked by difficulty conceptualizing the thoughts of others and the consequences of their actions resulting in the adolescent taking risks without regard to the consequences (e.g., adolescents copying the behavior of actors in the movie “The Program” by lying down in the middle of the street resulting in some of their deaths);

5. The relationship stage  (ages sixteen through adult): marked by learning to relate to others and the ability to conceptualize the consequences of their actions taking steps to reduce risks.[11]

Each stage of cognitive growth has its own vulnerability to all types of media, especially technology-based. In fact, video games have led to murder such as the school shooting crime in Paducah, KY. High school students were systematically massacred by a peer while attending a school approved prayer meeting. The killer’s cold and calculating demeanor was symptomatic of his being taken over, conditioned, mentally possessed, if you will, by technology addiction just as the normal, healthy adults in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS were taken over by the pod-produced duplicate imposters. Further details and examples of how media influence/technology addiction can lead to crimes such as murder are found at http://killology.com/ and http://www.killology.com/on_combat_ch2.htm.

What is one way we can combat this life-threatening menace right now? Parents, as the primary key to defeating this diabolical foe in the lives of the precious next generation, you must immediately establish technology boundaries for your children. Ask yourselves, who do I want to give permission to have access to my children’s impressionable minds to teach them.? What worldviews, beliefs and agendas do I want them to have and, thus, transfer to my children?

To help answer these questions, Dr. Ted Baehr and his Movieguide® staff researched and developed a teaching media presentation that contains a visual entitled, “Who Teaches Our Children?” It clearly shows who really has the most influence in the lives of our children between the ages of one and eighteen in terms of the number of hours of exposure during those years:

1. The media:  63,000 hours;

2. School:  11,000 hours;

3. Parents:  2,000 hours;

4. Church: 800 hours[12]

How can we deal with this one particular issue?  The most logical step for parents to take immediately to reduce the negative impact of media in the lives of our children is to apply the American Academy of Pediatrics researched recommendations for limits on screen time:

1. Ages 0-2: None;

2. Ages 3-5: One hour per day (make believe stage; no logic; must spend playtime with other children);

3. Ages 6-12:  A limit of 90 minutes per day;

4. Ages 13-19: Two hours a day tops.[13]

This should dramatically reduce the 63,000 hour figure in Dr. Baehr’s chart for media exposure during the years one through eighteen.

Parents can then address the other 3 categories with a variety of actions;  (1)”School”:  either home school or private school your student or, if public schooling is your only option, be involved in your child’s public education (e.g., teacher conferences, homework check, identifying and protesting classes their child is exposed to that are, in fact, indoctrination not learning); (2) “Parents”: increase parent-child time such as eat meals together; (3) “Church”:  add additional biblical, Christ-centered education and training to church attendance (e.g., devotional and prayer at meals and other regularly scheduled times such as before bed; family trips, vacations, retreats and conferences, vacation bible school, read faith-based books and watch faith-based films and discuss as a family; bible studies, scripture memory).

Older children and parents need to reinforce these limits by limiting their screen time so as to set an example and avoid brain damage, addiction, anti-social, self-centered and indulgent behavior patterns that negatively impact family life and ministry.

In conclusion, if we are truly going to honor God with our lives and be committed Christians  (not just a “fan”) who has made Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives, it is imperative, then, that we fully grasp the fact that we are all engaged in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6) and that the enemy of our souls is always working at “stealing, killing and destroying” (John 10:10), especially our minds. (One biblical solution is to confront our thoughts, determine their source and bring them into captivity to Christ per II Corinthians 10:5.)  One of our major strategies, then, must be to regularly read and apply God’s Word if we are to be victorious in winning the daily battles and, thus, the war.

 

Resources

1. Must-read books: The Digital Invasion by Dr. Hart, The Culture-Wise Family® and The Media-Wise Family by Dr. Baehr and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence by LTC Dave Grossman, Ph.D.[14] for a more thorough, in depth and detailed understanding of how digital technology and other media is impacting our brains and behavior and what we can do about it

2. DVD, “Indoctrination”: http://www.visionforum.com/browse/product/indoctrination-public-schools-and-the-decline/default.aspx

3. You may obtain the following resources from http://www.mediatalk101.org/

            a. DVD, Captivated

            b. MediaTalk101 Audio Collection on CD

            c. DVD, Media Choices: Convictions or Compromise

4. Booklet:  Biblically Handling Technology and Social Media; Applying Biblical Principles to Facebook, Texting, iPods, etc; from Biblical Discipleship Ministries, www.biblicaldiscipleship.org

5. CD Sermon Series by Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Guard Your Heart, Sexual Purity in a Media Culture, Moody Church media, www.moodymedia.org

6. Be sure of heaven:  http://evangelismexplosion.org/resources/steps-to-life/step-1-do-you-know/

7. Research re: how pornography harms:   http://pornharms.com/beaware/about-wrap

8. Case history of pornography addiction (Ted Bundy):  http://www.pureintimacy.org/f/fatal-addiction-ted-bundys-final-interview/

9. Recovery from addiction to pornography:  http://www.bebroken.com/

10. Free Booklet:  http://www.covenanteyes.com/brain-ebook/?__hssc=&__hstc&hsCtaTracking= 28bac4b3-9c3b-4c60-8b4e-7480769d7503|555d2a02-791a-44b4-8b38-982ca84e1f73; What’s so bad about porn?  Learn the 5 ways porn warps your brain and 3 biblical ways to renew it.

11. Detailed research on the connection between media and crime http://www.killology.com/on_combat_ch7.htm

 

Epilogue

1. A list of technology-based digital media that are documented foes

Among the researched and verified negative consequences from engaging in these activities include narcissism, online defrauding dating, depression, affairs, STDs, negative impact on marriage relationship, decreased ability to function in the real world, emasculating/neutering of men rendering them incapable of successfully negotiating real life (marriage, relationships, work, church ministry, school), feeding the demand side in human trafficking, irritability, promiscuity, betrayal of one’s mate, erroneous theology of sex, financial destitution, loss of job, idolatry, difficulty sleeping:

 

1. Social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter)

2. Pornography

3. Cybersex and Cyber-Affairs

4. Sexting

5. Cyber stalking

6. Cyber bullying

7. Internet gambling

8. Internet video gaming (“Second Life”)

9. Texting

 

We close with this perceptive insight from Josh McDowell as found in his position paper “Just 1 Click Away”:

“An insidious intruder is putting your children at risk. It is systematically stalking your children and, sadly, most parents and Christian leaders are oblivious to it. We are in the midst of a social media revolution that is allowing a corrupt and perverted morality to have direct access to our children.”[15]

A Note to Parents:  Do you know at this very moment how much time each day your children are spending on technology and what they are doing/accessing? What about your use of technology? Are you setting a conservative example? Would you willingly let a pedophile or child molester or kidnapper or human trafficker, all bent on violent intent, physically break into your home and steal your children right from under your nose? What about violent media? Why, then, do you allow your children unhindered freedom to explore the internet thus giving them access via technology to the same criminals you would physically protect them from if they were to break into your home?

 

Postscript

As this article was being put to bed, a timely radio news item reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics, rightfully concerned about the documented extensive time children spend with, and on, technology and its negative impact on them, has come out with strong recommendations to parents to drastically curtail time on media. (http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx).

In Luke 2:52, we learn that Jesus Christ grew physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. How are we doing in our spiritual walk?   Are we becoming increasingly more dependent on technology and less and less reliant on God?  Is our digital media becoming a god?  Timothy Keller, in his book, “Counterfeit Gods” stated:  “Idols are anything that become more important to us than God; anything that can absorb our heart and imagination more than God, and that seek to give us what God alone can give.”[16]  (Please read Psalm 115: 4-8 in regard to idols).

As a result, there is a growing concern that technology, especially the Internet, is responsible for many loosing their faith in Christ, especially young adults in their early twenties.

Josh McDowell addresses this:  “Atheists and skeptics now have equal access to our children just as your youth pastor and you have, which is why the number of Christian youth who believe in the fundamentals of Christianity is decreasing.”[17]

“Be still and know that I am God!”  Psalm 46:10

If our youth are being dangerously impacted by technology and its uncanny ability to rearrange our brain in a way that distracts us from living our faith such as spending quite, uninterrupted time alone with God through prayer and the reading of His Word, what is technology doing to our churches?

Author and blogger Tim Challies:  “If we are a distracted people and a distracted society, it stands to reason that we would also be a distracted church, a church with a diminished ability to think deeply, to cultivate concentration, to emphasize slow, deliberate, thoughtful meditation.”[18]

Perhaps that is why we have churches idolizing their preachers, especially in mega churches, withholding giving, shallow in both personal and ministry discipleship practices, unaware of cultural conflicts and issues the church is called to impact as salt and light and ignorantly embracing false teaching and doctrine.

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg in “How God Changes Your Brain”[19] gives us a solution: feed the frontal lobe of your brain with spiritual activity (e.g., regular bible reading and study, biblical prayer, fellowship and ministry). Why the frontal lobe?  The frontal lobe of our brain is where we process our relationship with God. However, when the frontal is overloaded as it is with excessive and addictive use of technology, it looses its ability to process, becomes overloaded/used and is depleted of simple energy. The result:  our brain is impaired, unable to think deeply and communicate with God in meaningful ways. In fact, recent research shows that young children have less “live” grey matter in the brain and more “dead” white matter because the blood flow to the pleasure center cut off blood flow to the other necessary parts of the children’s brains.

 

The Last Word

One final sobering piece of evidence confirming the detrimental impact on the human brain of excessive use of technology, specifically video game addiction, and exposure to violent media, is found in the words of Freshman student shooter Michael Carneal just after he killed 3 students and wounded 5 others in the Paducah, KY, Heath High School Prayer Group shooting, December 1, 1997:  “Kill me, please. I can’t believe I did that.”[20]

 




[1]            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Body_Snatchers

[2]            Bill Warren, Keep Watching the Skies! (Jefferson: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1997), Volume One, 289.

[3]            Daniel Sieberg, The Digital Diet (New York: Random House, 2011), 5.

[4]            Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, The Digital Invasion (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 64.

[5]            http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Hosea-4-6/

[6]            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%208:32&version=KJV

[7]            Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, The Digital Invasion (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 24-25.

[8]            Ibid, 26.

[9]            Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (New York: Harper, 2009), 1.

[10]            Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, The Digital Invasion (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 62-71.

[11]            Dr. Ted Baehr, The Media-Wise Family (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1998), 115-117.

[12]            Source: MOVIEGUIDE®  2003  (http://www.movieguide.org)

[13]            American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education, “Children, Adolescents and Television,” Pediatrics 107 (2001): 423-426, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/2/423.full.html.

[14]            http://killology.com/books.htm

[15]            Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, The Digital Invasion (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 111.

[16]            Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 200), xvi.

[17]            Anugrah Kumar, “Apologist Josh McDowell: Internet the Greatest Threat to Christians,” Christian Post,  July 16, 2011, http://www.christianpost.com/news/internet-the-greatest-threat-to-christians-apologist-josh-mcdowell-says-52382/.

[18]            Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 116.

[19]            Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, How God Changes Your Brain (New York:  Random House, 2009), 43.

[20]            “When The Silence Fell”. Time. 2001-06-24. Retrieved 2010-05-04.