Last Friday night after a young-peoples Bible study four of us went over to my house for sandwiches, coke, and some fellowship. We ended up laughing and talking for about two-hours before I kicked them off my front porch.
This was a fun time of interaction and relationship development but one thing bothers me as I think about it this afternoon…all of us where on an electronic device (phone or tablet)
Todays society has mastered the art of having a conversation with someone while tweeting, swiping, posting, emailing, or scrolling through updates to the point where we don’t see a problem with it anymore.
Marshall Segal wrote a very insightful piece about this called Home Alone: The Lies that Tie Us to our Phone this week, and it made me really rethink our Friday night fellowship time.
Segal begins by pointing out phones or technology allow us to be there physically, but not there mentally or emotionally
The message we’re really sending while sending one more quick text is: Better to be away from the family — the spouse, the children, the roommate, the guest — and at home with the phone. As Sherry Turkle has observed, our phones now present the potential to be with someone, but always somewhere else as well (Alone Together, 152). To constantly check our phone, then, is to put up an away message and declare that we’re not really there. We’re home together, yet home alone.
He proceeds to explain the first lie that keeps us home alone, “the world needs me”
For some of us, a savior complex tethers us to our phones. We’re afraid something will happen and someone will need us — and only us — immediately. What could they possibly do if we weren’t available? Well, probably whatever they did for thousands of years before the telephone existed, or for a couple hundred more while it was anchored to the wall. Or more likely, and yet strangely unthinkable to a me-centered generation, they’ll just call someone else.
Segal rightly points out this many times becomes a “savior complex” that believes we are the only ones who can possibly take care of everyone’s problems.
While this is true, the second lie (we need the world) is where he really got me. Marshall gets past the outer issues and reveals our constant connectedness has to do with our desire to be constantly affirmed.
We have a need to be needed. We love the idea that someone might text or call or tweet to get our attention. We don’t want to miss that moment when someone else thought of us. We need the world. Alert after alert, our phones justify and praise our existence. They reassure us that we are considered talented, important, and loved by someone — even if the affection is often shallow, superficial, and short-lived.
On a personal note I have found myself checking Facebook constantly after sharing a funny post or beautiful picture because in a way those red numbers make me feel loved (and they should) but it’s easy to go too far and use those numbers as the source of self-esteem (I MUST have likes and comments).
Marshall ends with an encouragement to do something absolutely extraordinary and radical…..Put your phone on “do not disturb” which allows no calls or notifications to come through. This is different than putting our phone away, and then reaching for the moment a vibration is felt or the slightest sound is heard 🙂
Part of me actually likes to spend time on the phone while talking to young people because it keeps things easy and comfortable. But by putting the electronics down and having a real conversation (however uncomfortable that might be) would bring more glory to God.