Historians estimate Moses received the Ten Commandments around the 15th century B.C., but even several millennia and a world of technological advances later, they’re as relevant as ever before.
This year the Deseret News’ annual Ten Today project, which explores the application of the ancient commandments in modern life, centers on the charges to keep the Sabbath day holy and not covet. In a world dominated by digital discourse, these invitations can be harder to keep than one might think.
The internet has changed the way and speed of communication, including the way marketers reach their customers. Users’ data is collected and used to create ads that target a range of demographics: race, financial stability, religion, sexual orientation and even health status.
The main purpose is, of course, to sell. For those who report not being able to walk away from their devices for more than a few hours, product messaging has become almost inescapable.
Also troubling is a study from Facebook executives in 2017 revealing that social media tracking could also track when teens were feeling “insecure,” “worthless,” “stressed” or a “failure” and use that information to micro-target them for certain products. Companies are making it easier to believe all one’s problems can be solved through the purchase of things.
Coveting in the digital sphere comes with consequences. Not only is there a likely link between comparison and mental health, but a focus on materialism can also affect relationships. A study from Brigham Young University found that increased materialism can lead to a decrease in marriage satisfaction and sense that marriage is important.
Experts say it’s difficult to control how much data companies are allowed to receive, and a Deseret News poll found that nearly half of Americans don’t know how to limit their personal data. While there are some ways to limit what information websites can see, it’s almost impossible to stop it altogether.
Discovering useful products is not inherently bad, but putting things before people has never resulted in a positive outcome. While all these ads promise fulfillment or happiness, real happiness and life satisfaction comes from being present in the moment. Constant coveting takes away from being mindful and nurturing the relationships and moments that matter.
How to get away? Learning to set boundaries is perhaps the most effective step. Deseret News reporter Jennifer Graham explores the option of taking a “digital Sabbath” in order to keep the seventh day more holy. That may include turning off devices as the Sabbath starts, deliberately stepping away from social media one day a week or prioritizing family time over screen time.7 comments on this story
The data is clear: The number of Americans who worry they spend too much time on their phone has tripled since 2012. Three-quarters of the country owns a smartphone, and the number of times those owners check their screens each day is in the dozens.
Dedicating a day to step away signals that you are the master of your technology and not the other way around.
Technology is not terrible, but neglecting the ancient commands as they relate to the digital age exacerbates concerns of technological anxiety. Fortunately, a prophet gave his people guidance centuries ago, and those principles will outlive even the coolest new phone.