A decade ago I suggested that research regarding the spirituality of young people gave insufficient attention to the place of technology in their lives. “Young peoples’ innate desires for intimacy and self-transcendence are bound up in their daily use of technology. These spiritual yearnings are embodied insofar as they are located within, rather than in opposition to, adolescents’ physiological and psycho-social development, and are fur­ther embodied in their personal media practices or habits.”[ Young People, Technoculture and Embodied Spirituality was published in Interface, Vol 14 No 2, 2011.]

Here are some excerpts from the article.

“The connection between spiritual development and social engagement is a recurring theme in studies of youth and young adults. According to the international, multi-faith research by the Search Institute’s Centre for Spiritual Development, spiritual development has three dimensions:

  • connecting and belonging
  • becoming aware of or awakened to self and life
  • developing a way of living

[Eugene Roehlkepartain et al, With Their Own Voices (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2008.]

In this schema, relational connectedness is a necessary aspect of healthy spirituality, both in terms of a sense of the transcendent or divine and of interdependence with other people.” [p74f]

What if we were to see in young people’s innate use of communicative technology not a negative denial of their true needs, but in fact an authentic search for well-being, meaning and intimacy? Indeed, what if their communicative capacities, augmented by technology, are inseparable from this spiritual quest? [p85f]

Rather than seeing young people as passive, even brainwashed, con­sumers of electronic culture, we may instead see them as consciously as­signing significance to technological practices, constantly revising their media use and its meaning, and creatively producing novel applications and interpretations… [p89]

Public concerns regarding teenagers and their sexual development have been subsumed and even magnified by media discourses concerning technology. Social institutions, including churches, have viewed technol­ogy as a threat to young people at the same time that they have em braced its promise for progress. These mixed messages conveyed to young people regarding technology are a continuation of cultural narratives concerning the perils of teenage sexual expression. Furthermore, the personal and so­cial aspects of communication technologies provide for regular, intimate connectedness in ways that can relieve loneliness, invite self-disclosure, and build trust, and may thus enable the deep knowing that human be­ings crave. To see the desire for intimacy and connectedness as a strong spiritual yearning, related to self-knowledge and self-transcendence, is to acknowledge ICT as a potentially significant vehicle for mediated spiritu­ality for young people. [p94f]

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