Our world is quite connected. Right? I mean, the GPS on my phone tracks me everywhere I go, anyone anywhere in the world at any time can easily get ahold of me, and I can FaceTime my friend across the globe instantly seeing in her home! The ability to “connect” isn’t the issue.
Though, sometimes when my husband and I lay in bed after a long day, both looking at our phones instead of each other; I wonder. I wonder if all this “connection” isn’t really the type of connection we need.
God created humans for relationship, to function interwoven with others. Friends, family, co-workers, even strangers sharing an experience on a plane or in line. We are relational beings. Some more than others and in different ways, certainly. Introversion and extroversion and personality preferences are no joke. Nonetheless, God designed humans to need relational contact. After all, almost immediately after creating Adam, He said it wasn’t good for him to be alone!
And, I certainly don’t want to be all negative nancy about technology. The benefits of technology are immense, even in this whole “connection” realm. Personally, I benefit from technology every day! I can quickly talk with my mother-in-law in Indonesia, my best friend in China, or FaceTime family that lives out of state. Instantly, with ease, for no extra charges, we can connect. Also, I use my phone as a camera, email provider, bank, weather channel, and Bible! I use technology to work with clients all across the country, with only my computer! Connection through technology is like anything else; it’s what you make of it.
But, back to that scene at the end of the long day when my husband and I perform parallel play on our phones instead of looking at one another. That’s not using technology to truly connect. That’s using to technology to connect to something, but rarely the connection my soul needs. I wonder if you struggle with this, also. I bet if you made a list of your most important people- your spouse, or closest friends, your kids, your parents and siblings, your people; you also might realize the tendency to look at a screen instead of in their eyes! Again, there is nothing wrong with T.V., or movies, or smartphones. However, I think overuse quickly blurs into misuse.
If we use anything out of its original purpose things can go south quickly. If I use my phone to get in touch with people who are not with me, that’s awesome. If I use my phone to numb or hide or distract from my life, that’s so far from awesome. It sounds intense; perhaps you’re thinking, “Umm, I don’t numb myself with technology. I’m not hiding from my life.” Maybe not, I hope not! Though this is easy to do, it takes almost no effort or conscious thought.
Overstimulation is the norm. Bigger is better. Busy is the new successful. These are the messages we receive all day, every day. (Of course, we don’t have to agree with them, but that’s what culture says is true.) Therefore, if we stand in line at the grocery store, or wait for a doctor to call our name already, it’s almost second nature to look at our phones mindlessly. In our overstimulated-never-bored world, it’s hard not to distract ourselves when our attention isn’t captivated. Or, if we feel sad or lonely or anxious, it’s easy to turn to social media or the endless information stream available on the internet, in attempt to alleviate what we feel.
For some time now, God has been talking to me about what it would look like to shift my technology use. Not eliminate it, but manage it instead of letting it control me. If my priority is to live a life rooted in God’s love and build rich, meaningful relationships, then I’m going to have to make some counter-cultural choices.
If my goal is connection, then I need to be mindful of when technology supports connection instead versus disconnection. I might even have to put my phone down and ask others do the same! This could be as simple as having some boundaries around when my husband and I use technology. Or, turning my phone on silent, and dare I say it, not even look at it the entire time I’m at lunch with a friend! It could look like choosing conversation over a movie. Or, merely turning off the radio on my commute and sitting in the silence! Making space to be quiet and still enough to connect with myself and God- that is the heart of connection.
God only meets us in the present moment! In the here and now. I’m learning that I need to be available: emotionally, physically, and spiritually, to position myself to connect more with Him than the news or status quo or the hustling world. There is a lot I have absolutely no control over, but preparing my heart and mind to stay connected to Him and my true self, those are things I can nurture.
And, while this sounds nice, like a spa day or vacation at the beach, sometimes it’s painful. Because, well, sometimes life is painful. The present can be messy and far from ideal, making distraction appear quite attractive. If I choose distraction or to numb or hide, I risk missing the good stuff while trying to lessen the hard stuff. Every time. Like an emotional epidural, that’s what happens when we use technology to disconnect from reality; it decreases all connection, not just the less-than-desirable ones. Missed opportunities to look into our child’s eyes, process with our friend instead of shoving it all away, or ask for God’s perspective on the perhaps very painful present moment. I don’t want my life to be a long string of these missed opportunities.
I want to connect with myself, God, and my important people. Sometimes, I use technology to do that, and sometimes all my technology use gets in the way of my doing that. I’m very much in process, but I desire to lean more and more into connection and catch myself from falling into disconnection.
Are you with me? How do you use technology to connect, or disconnect, with your world? Take a minute and ask God to reveal if there’s a way He wants to guide you towards connection.