The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

pictures of many privileged people sitting by the beach with their computer

This was a featured story on Medium last summer, but I stumbled across a few posts recently that brought this to my mind. Paris Marx makes gives astute commentary on our current obsession with a nomadic lifestyle, opening with the allure:

In an era of increasingly precarious jobs, ever-longer working hours, and declining social mobility, it’s no surprise that digital nomads are gaining a sizable following. Office dwellers lack happiness or hope in the daily grind. They know there must be something better. After enough time spent in an office chair, it’s easy to aspire to become one of those people with a MacBook on a beach in a foreign locale.

And who among us hasn’t spent a 15 minute session scrolling through some “van life” Instagram feed? But he quickly hints at the darker reality:

Many digital nomads had significant privilege before pursuing such a lifestyle, privilege that allows them to avoid the potentially negative aspects of location independence.

Later in the article, he states his case — and the problem with this movement — more clearly:

The fierce individualism embedded in the culture of digital nomadism ignores (and can damage) communities, both at home and abroad. People who feel “liberated” from space have no stake in improving the space around them. To them, local communities are as valuable as co-working space. Digital nomads are far less likely to work toward positive local change, fight for the rights of disadvantaged peoples, or halt the gentrification that displaces long-term residents — to which they usually contribute — because those issues don’t affect them.

I’ve been making my way through A Field Guide For Everyday Mission with other members of our local church. It’s been a good read and I recognize changes I need to make in my thinking. This post resonates in a similar way.

Marx finishes the article with a scathing judgement (understandably so), but sadly doesn’t offer any solutions.

Privilege allows digital nomads to ignore all these things. It allows them to live in a fantasy world where they need only worry about themselves. They take full advantage of their positions, increasing their satisfaction while avoiding their responsibility to contribute to the society that granted them their privilege in the first place. Their lifestyle actively augments the forces displacing locals. Digital nomads evidently do not care about the places where they happen to live and, for that reason, they have no place in the future.

That’s where the book I mentioned above comes in. It encourages followers of Christ to open our eyes, see the mission field right where we are, and to start to make changes by serving others and sharing the Good News of Christ.

This is one I’ll read through, then go back and go through it again. The second time making notes and picking practical changes to make in my daily life.