How well do we know the person next door? Casual? Conversation at the mailbox or when we go get the garbage can? How well do we know the person in the office next to ours? Water cooler? Staff meeting? How well do we know the family down the isle in our church service? As we go through our lives here on earth, do we really know what goes on in the lives of the people who pass us by each and every day as we walk from mailbox to door, office to water-cooler? Does anyone really know us?
Does it matter? Do we really care?
I think it does matter. I think we do care. I think that it might be one of the more important questions that we ask ourselves as a church and as humans. We live in a culture that is a lonely one. We were not created to be alone; we were not created to do life by ourselves. Yet, we continually isolate ourselves more and more. We get further from each other with every technological development.
First came the letter. We could send post to anyone on the planet. It took a long time, but it saved us a trip across the country. Then came the telephone call. We could be connected with so many so easily and yet stay in our homes. Then came email, which allowed us to communicate without the wait. I know that I am missing other innovations, but the point remains. We don't even have to leave our offices to let the guy down the hall know what we needed or wanted. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have connected us to so many, but further isolated us in the process.
Technology has isolated us by offering the tantilizing promise of true connection without the mess of unedited conversation. Real time conversation allows for mistakes and thoughts that flow without the ability to delete what we have said that may really let people know what we think. So things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, and text-messaging give us the ability to craft an image of ourselves that only reveals the parts of us that we think others will approve of. The trouble is that the image we present isn't complete and it leaves us with the question: Does anyone really know me? And maybe just as importantly: Do I want them to? We are more connected than we ever have been and yet disconnected and misunderstood more than we ever thought possible.
So we go through our lives wishing and hoping that someone would break through the walls that we have built up around us in the hope that someone might actually care about who we are and what we have been through. At our core, we desire to be known.
In some ways technology has come through on its promise: We have 800 friends on facebook and as many followers on Twitter. These friends and followers, however, only give us the illusion of connection. They "like", comment and affirm the life that we are presenting through these channels. And really that is what has come to the forefront: The LIKE. The "like" has morphed from a simple way to tell a person that you thought that what they did was cool, into a desperate race for validation. The more likes, the more validated a person feels. This creates a process where we are no longer able to do things without the potential that each moment might be an instagramable moment. Each meal is an opportunity to craft the image we want the world to see of us. Every sunrise and sunset, every babies first step, every workout, every quiet moment with God cannot simply be what it is, it is an opportunity to image craft.
The pictures and the posts and the likes are not the complete problem. The problem is that when we are so connected to people who are not "real" (actually with us), we miss the moments and the people that are with us and happening in real time. We miss true connection. We were not created to go through this life alone. We were created to exist with other people in the here and now.
I am not exempt from anything that I am writing about. I have a twitter account, a facebook account and an instagram account. I "like" the photos and the stories and the interactions. Still, I am finding myself more and more dissolusioned with what these things are doing in my life. The other night, for example, I was bored. I really didn't have anything to do. So I reached for my phone. I had already read through my feeds and caught up on email, but I reached for it. I was uncomfortable in my lack of activity so I reached for my phone like a baby reaching for a passifier. I am not proud of it, but it is true. The other problem with this: my wife was sitting 2 feet away from me on the couch. Um...yeah I think I need help.
I missed an opportunity to connect with a person that I find facinating, who was actually with me, so I could connect with people who, in some cases, I dont even know. We are to be in the lives of others and have others in our lives. We are to love one another. We are to care for one another and we are share together, but for that to happen I have to see and touch the people that God has placed around me. Their concern is my concern and their joy is my joy.
This post won't matter much if I don't offer some practical solutions that I am going to try so that I can be in the moments that God has given me. I want to be present so that I can rejoice with others in the moment and mourn with the broken through their valleys.
- I am going to set on and off hours for social media. Like on at 8am and off at 8pm. No more going to bed having not spoken meaningful words to my kids and my wife. This means facebook, twitter etc. Not phone calls and conversations with people in my life.
- Set a timer for facebook, twitter and instagram. I still love these forms of social media. I will still use them, but I am tired of getting stuck with the dead-stare-scroll-face. You know, when you dont even know what you are looking at anymore, but you still swipe your finger up and down that device. Setting a timer will allow a sufficient amount of browsing without wasting too much time.
- Take a day away from the phone and computer and tablet. Take a trip with no social media present. No pictures to post, no comments to make, no "likes" to pursue, just you and the people you love, enjoying an experience together.
- Make phone calls and personal visits. Instead of texting, call. Write a letter long hand. I find that much more of my heart goes into a letter that I have written as opposed to an email.
- Watch these videos and see if you feel any conviction about how you are connecting.