I don’t know what woke me up at midnight last night. Maybe it was a crazy dream. My brain was chugging along at a speed non-conductive to sleep and I lay there for what seemed like hours trying to make sense of it all. Loneliness in a world of people…people and their technology…technology and what it’s doing to us…us and our habits…habits that spiral us into a world of addiction…addictions that strain relationships…relationships that are draining…what we do when we’re drained.
I know what I want to do when I’m drained. Not just when I’m drained though – it’s when I’m feeling down and just want a break from reality; it’s when I’m hurting and don’t want to deal with it; it’s when I’m hungry for truth, but I’m too tired to seek.
For me it’s the computer, for many others is their smart phone. Everywhere we turn we see people on their electronic gadgets.
For the younger generation, I see it as a security blanket – always looking busy on their phone they avoid human contact and potential conversations. I know this because I’ve been in situations where I wished I could whip out a phone and look totally engrossed in my “important” messages. There was a time I even scrolled through my contacts “looking busy” to avoid an awkward encounter with someone.
Suddenly it hit me. Smart phones are the adult version of a baby pacifier. I rolled over, flipped my light on, and scribbled the title of this post on the back of a list. Now before you go rebutting this midnight epiphany, hear me out.
A mayo clinic article offers pros and cons for the use of baby pacifiers. Here are a few of them…
- A pacifier might soothe a fussy baby. Some babies are happiest when they’re sucking on something.
- A pacifier offers temporary distraction. A pacifier might come in handy during shots, blood tests or other procedures.
- A pacifier might help your baby fall asleep. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick.
- A pacifier might ease discomfort during flights.
- Early pacifier use might interfere with breast-feeding.
- Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth.
Now tell me if these pros and cons don’t apply to smart phones…
- A smart phone might soothe a fussy child/adult. Some people are happiest when they’ve got their phone in hand.
- A smart phone offers temporary distraction. A phone might come in handy during awkward conversations, lunch dates, onslaughts of boredom, or other procedures.
- A smart phone might help you fall asleep. If you’re having trouble settling down, a Pandora station might do the trick.
- A smart phone might ease discomfort during flights. We all know sitting in close proximity to complete strangers is discomforting, as is having to listen to babies cry or people talking.
- Early smart phone use might interfere with, get this, real life and face-to-face human interaction.
- You might become dependent on your smart phone. If you use a phone to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the phone falls out of your hand.
Just kidding about the last one, but how many people do you know who are completely dependent on and inseparable from their phone? Why, 12% of people admit to using their smart phones in the shower!
The study also states, “The heaviest media users had a greater association with behavioral problems and lower grades: 47 percent of those who consumed an astounding 16 hours of media per day had grades of mostly Cs or lower. In comparison, just 23 percent of those who consumed media three hours or less had such grades. The heaviest media users were also more likely to report boredom, sadness or trouble at school.” (emphasis mine)
Smart phone usage is starting at younger and younger ages. Case in point, my 2 year old nephew. He doesn’t need a pacifier, he’s got his own ipod touch. He can navigate his i touch better than I can. Seeing his tiny little fingers swiping the screen and taping away is mind-boggling to me.
He’s a supper smart kid, but I wonder what all this constant media input with do to him as he gets older. This early in the game, we don’t really know the advantages and disadvantages of a child being raised with so much technology fed into their little brains.
Frankly, we don’t even know yet what it’s doing to us. Should we be concerned about the astronomical amount of time we spend on our phones and computers? What is it doing to our brains, or our relationships, or our life?
We are a people who seek fulfillment. We need purpose in our lives. We need something or someone to live for. And this is what I’m afraid of… that we are trying to find that fulfillment through our social media, or iphones, our Facebook accounts and blogs.
Every day I’m drawn to my computer by this unseen force. When I analyze it I realize I’m trying to find something there. Something inside me thinks cyberspace will give me what I want to make me happy, that something amazing and good will pop up in my Inbox that will change my life and give me new direction and meaning.
Blog comments, e-mails from friends, “likes”, and pingbacks give me a high and I have to keep coming back for more. I have to keep doing more to get more. I’m a social media addict.
This one isn’t much different than other addictions though. It leaves me feeling empty, lonely, and disappointed. What I’m really looking for is not there and never will be. While Smartphones are pretty incredible devices, they don’t necessarily make us smart. In fact, they might even dumb us down. They might just make us miss the little opportunities in life that make for big changes. Staring at a screen won’t allow us to see the beautiful things in life that are right beside us. Constantly engaging our minds with news, gossip, and media input could dim our awareness of bigger ideas and and thoughts that would transform our world.
We’ve all heard, or had, the baby that cries uncontrollably in the airplane, grocery store, or at home. After doing everything we can and still not knowing what he wants, we pop a pacifier in his mouth to give him something to take his mind off what the real issue is.
Have you ever reached for your iphone or computer because you just need to escape? I know I have. It’s a welcome break and keeps “the voices in my head from stealing my peace.” (Control – JJ Heller)
But is this healthy behavior? Does our obsession with phones and social media pacify us and keep us from going deeper, from seeking reality? From discovering what life is really about?
I can bet you it’s not about how many followers you have on Vine, or how many “friends” you have on Facebook, or how many “likes” you get on a post. It’s about knowing Who made you and why He made you. It’s about the people God puts around you and how you interact with them. (Yeah, I know, it’s always easier to get along with your phone.) It’s about loving, being kind, and always growing, seeking and finding, praying and waiting, inhaling, exhaling, praising God.
So I challenge you as I challenge myself, let’s hang up the electronics. For a day, for a week, for a month if you can. Let’s look strangers in the eye and give them a genuine smile. Let’s be open to random conversations or chatting in the waiting room. Let’s breath in some fresh air, sing a song, take a walk and thank God for His amazing creation WITHOUT, and this is the key, without instagraming the moment, or thinking of the next Facebook status, or planning your next blog post.
Ah! That’s a tough one isn’t it?
Now please excuse me while I shut my computer down for the rest of the weekend. :D