In 2012, Crook disabled the data on her smartphone, turned off her e-mail and said goodbye to the Internet for 31 days. She chronicled her fast from technology by writing a letter to a friend every day, who then posted it on a blog—a project that became the foundation for this book. Her aim isn't to reject technology, but to raise questions that can help us take a mindful approach.
Although the book is aimed at a wider audience, Crook is a Christian and writes from this perspective, drawing from research and philosophy rooted in Christian ideas about personhood. The central question she poses comes from philosopher Albert Borgmann: “What happens when technology moves beyond lifting genuine burdens and starts freeing us from burdens that we should not want to be rid of?” In other words, how do we engage with technology without sacrificing what it means to be human? Crook refers to a quote from media expert Dr. Read Schuhardt several times, who reframes the question in theological terms: “We believe we have control over their effects because we made these technologies. But the truth is we make our technologies and they remake us in their image.”
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 explores global shifts in how we communicate with each other, and outlines the good and bad about the Internet. Although it has unleashed the power of collaboration, the Internet also has the potential to reshape not just what we do, but who we are—the way we see the world, spend our time and, especially, the way we relate to others. Too often, Crook writes, the connections we make online offer the illusion of friendship, without the deeper demands of real relationships.
Crook argues that we have embraced technological progress without stopping to consider the consequences, so Part 2 emphasizes the value of taking a break from the digital world to evaluate our priorities. Part 3 explores how to set limits that will put people before technology, recognizing that we are only fully human in relationship.
The Joy of Missing Out raises profound theological questions about the impact of technology on our lives. What purpose is it serving? Is it connecting you in ways that enrich your life and the lives of others? Do you act more because of what you learn online? What future are we choosing through our daily actions—are we merely consuming or are we reflecting the creativity of God?
Throughout the book, Crook provides chapter-specific challenges to help readers reflect on the material and apply it to their own lives. She also suggests a way forward, offering practical suggestions for how to go about a digital detox. “When we deprive ourselves of our digital technologies with the intention of making room for quiet reflection and stillness, we help develop self-discipline and fortitude,” she writes, “fostering a greater openness to God or whatever is sacred.”
My first thought when considering such a detox was, But what if I miss something? Then I remembered the title of the book. Like Crook, I want to cultivate healthy habits, pay attention to what brings joy and meaning to my life and make sure that my use of technology serves that purpose. The Joy of Missing Out is a good guide for getting there.