According to a recent article in Zero Hedge, U.S. productivity has only grown at an average rate of 1.2 percent since 1975. The article defines productivity, unusually, as output per person (GDP per capita)—relying heavily on a 2015 Zero Hedge article. Using this measure, productivity has trended downward since 1972.
The more traditional measure of productivity, output per hour, also shows a downward trend in productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), labor productivity in 2016 fell 0.1 percent. Productivity growth was 0.9 percent in 2006, 2.1 percent in 1996, 3.0 percent in 1986, and 3.5 percent in 1976.
Productivity is the most important economic factor determining our standard of living and the wages of workers. Increasing productivity allows workers to produce more goods and services per hour which makes them more valuable to their employers. More valuable employees obtain higher wages from their current employer or other competing employers. Higher wages create larger income flows which, in turn, increase demand for goods and services, and the cycle continues.
Tremendous advances in agricultural productivity freed millions of workers from an agrarian society. Salaries lured these previous farm workers to cities to produce manufactured goods and other services. Food security, the standard of living, wages and education increased, which caused further increases in productivity. The benefits of the industrial revolution were the result of increased productivity. Recent economic growth in Asia is the result of increased productivity.
Technology, education, incentives, a fair and equitable legal environment and infrastructure are friends to productivity. Bureaucracy, regulations, high taxes and counter-productive social mores are its enemies. Society, businesses and individuals should strive to increase productivity.
The recent Zero Hedge article previously cited suggests that social networking could be a reason for the recent drop in productivity. In 2015, U. S. adult users consumed an average of 5.6 hours of digital media each day, compared to 3.2 hours in 2010. Mobile access accounted for 51 percent (2.8 hours per day) of the total, compared to 0.4 hours in 2010.
According to Statista, Facebook is the most popular social network, with 2.047 billion users worldwide. The average Facebook user will spend 899 minutes on Facebook each month. Other popular networks include You Tube (1.500 billion per month), WhatsApp (1.200 billion), Facebook Messenger (1.200 billion) and WeChat (938 million).
Social networks have created worldwide communities. Digital networks have made global communication more simple, interesting and convenient than local phone calls a few decades ago. These networks have been used to share, inform, support and teach worldwide communities. They have also been used to spread fake news, foster ungodly relationships and as a platform for hate.
Believers can use Facebook, and other social media, to demonstrate the love of Christ, teach, encourage and advance the kingdom. But caution is advised. The world is watching. Inappropriate content and relationships are off-limits. Our words and actions should always be loving.
Social networks are designed to be addictive, and the data support their effectiveness. Some have substituted digital relationships for personal relationships. Others have become so addicted to social networks that their spiritual life, work, ministry and families have suffered. In this world of limitless digital possibilities, balance is especially important. We are called to be fruitful (productive), and a digital presence can be part of becoming fruitful—but only a part. Everyone needs to relax occasionally, but balance is required.
Paul compared our life to running in a race. Note that Paul used the Greek equivalent of "run"; he did not say stroll, walk or even jog. He said run. Paul indicated that a runner exercises self-control in all things to obtain a corruptible crown; we are striving for an incorruptible crown. We run with certainty and don't fight by beating the air. We are effective, productive and focused. Believers are not sprinters but run for the long-term with endurance. We lay aside every weight and sin. We remember that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Although Paul did not know of the digital world, his teaching implies that our digital presence must be kept in balance to run our race effectively.
"Do you not know that all those who run in a race run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. Everyone who strives for the prize exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. So, therefore, I run, not with uncertainty. So I fight, not as one who beats the air" (1 Cor. 9:24-26).
"Therefore, since we are encompassed with such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).
Biblical principles of the digital world include:
- Do not waste inordinate amounts of time on social networking or other digital media. We are called to be productive at work and to have loving relationships with our families and others.
- Do use the digital world to increase your productivity and fruit. Technology, if used correctly, increases our productivity.
- Use social networks to encourage, teach, inform and support.
- Provide content, but be discerning before sharing the content of others. Make sure the content to be shared is true.
- Unfriend or block anyone displaying inappropriate content or making inappropriate advances.
- If you disagree with the opinion of another, do so in a respectable manner. Do not get into long arguments.
- Do not belittle another with social media.
- Do not get your news from social networks unless it is from a reliable source.
- Maintain biblical standards of righteousness and holiness on social media.
- Ensure that no relationship even has the appearance of being inappropriate. If there are doubts, unfriend or block.
- Use social networks to spread the love of Christ.
- Pray for the needs revealed on social networks.
Let us represent Jesus in all that we do. Let us take advantage of every opportunity offered while avoiding the pitfalls. Let us be productive, disciplined and focused in sharing the love of the Lord Jesus—digitally and personally.
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him," (Col. 3:17).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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