During our recent holidays, we found ourselves sitting in an airport lounge. When I’m bored in these situations, I often watch people. As I scanned the people beside me and across from me, every one of them were on their phones – or some kind of electronic device. They were totally immersed in the cyber world and practically oblivious to anything going on around them. Actual live conversation didn’t exist. It made me wonder what kind of a world we are creating. Has the anticipation of the next text become more important that the person sitting in front of you?
I am currently reading a book about the importance of replenishing your soul. In it the author has a chapter where he comments about the invasive nature of our technology on human relationships, and ultimately on our very souls. He is a pastor himself and tells of a recent meeting he had with a group of pastors. He writes: “At one point I noticed something disturbing; remember, this was a live meeting with real people discussing important issues about the church. I realized I was multi-tasking. I had several screens open. I was answering time-sensitive e-mails. I checked some possible flights for an upcoming trip. I was also carrying on two different chat conversations. One was with another guy in the same meeting (By chatting we could give commentary without anyone else knowing what we were saying). As if that weren’t enough, I was regularly checking my phone for text messages. And I was engaged in the live discussion. I am a sick person!” (end quote)
On the one hand I am quite amazed that someone could do that all at once – I could never juggle that much communication. But on the other it seems a sad commentary on the reality we have come to embrace. The constant barrage from too much information and communication can create an internal noise that threatens our very soul. We are continually wired up and even become addicted to the noise. If you don’t think that is true, try to be completely quiet for even 5 minutes. Do you become fidgety or restless? Again I quote: “There was a time when silence was normal and a lot of racket disturbed us. But today, noise is the normal fare, and silence, strange as it may seem, has become the real disturbance.”
I admit, it’s easy for me to throw stones, because I neither carry a phone nor do I own one. Yet I understand the amazing benefits of this form of communication – for business and for families separated by miles, it’s wonderful. But I do wonder where all this technological means of communication will lead us. The author goes on to say that all this internal noise hinders our ability to focus on people. We struggle to stay engaged in a real conversation because we’re “constantly checking, monitoring, tweeting or texting. Even though it’s unintentional, we’re devaluing people and cheapening relationships.”
I don’t know about you but I get irritated when I am trying to carry on a conversation with someone and I know they are only half-listening because they are distracted by what’s happening on their phone. I feel devalued – as the real person in the room, I am reduced to second place in their attention span.
This is the real danger in all this tech – that in the end human relationships will suffer, and we will be the worse for it. Life without relationship with God and others is artificial and will damage your very soul. So let’s be tech-wise and tech-savvy – recognizing it strengths, but also having a keen awareness of the dangers to the core of our very humanity.
Maybe try a 24 hour technology fast each week for Lent??
Thank you for reading!