Sunday, October 18, 2015

Purposefully Unplugged



When our children look back and think about us, will they be able to picture us without a smart phone in our hands?

This question haunts me.

I remember last October, when our family went to Disney World.  It amazed me how many people still spent more of their time connected to their smartphones than their family or the amusement park itself. Take a photo. Post it. How many likes does a photo of us in front of Cinderella's Castle get us?  #Happiestplaceon earth.

In a study done by McCann Worldgroup, they surveyed over 7,000 people between the ages of 16 to 30, and 53% of them said they would rather give up their sense of smell than their technology. They would be more willing to be unable to smell a flower or the scent of freshly baked bread or a newly mowed lawn or a spring rain for technology.  A loss of smell would also impact the taste of their food.  But even so, they would rather have their cell phones.

One in five said they would rather go shoeless than phoneless.

75% of all teenagers and 58% of 12 year olds now have cell phones. More than half send 50 or more texts a day. Most say it is their preferred way of communication.

Another study showed that over half of the people interviewed said they get anxious if they couldn't use their cell phones.


And don't think that I believe this is limited to teenagers and young adults, as I know far too many adults who are just as bad, if not worse about being on their cell phones.

How many of us would willingly give up technology for a week?  How about a month?  Ninety days?

Most would go through serious withdrawal without their smart phones, Internet, tablets, and social media.

46% of adults said they could not give up their Internet.  44% said they would be unable to give up their cell phones.

This should come as no surprise since 66% said they sleep with their smart phones next to them.

28% said they would rather go without seeing their significant other for a week than give up their smart phones for the same amount of time.

Why?

When did we become gluttonous for technology to the degree that we would rather have our tablets, our smart phones, our Internet than one of our natural senses, our spouses, and real connection with others?

In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Eugene Peterson writes, "We care more for our possessions with which we hope to make our way in the world than with our thoughts and dreams which tell us who we are in the world."

Our products determine our person. We are defined by our consumerism.  It's all instant.  All now.  The newest latest.  While waiting in line for the newest smartphone, we are already hearing how it will be osolete when the next one comes out in a few months.  We are literally chasing after things that are futile and, unlike the Bible, are no longer able to see things in terms of generations, but only in terms of momentary flashes. The Internet tells us that we not only have to be more, but to have more to measure up.


We live in a culture that seeks distraction and will create more and more ways to achieve this.  All of us have become, like Kurt Cobain sang in "Smells Like Teen Spirit": Here we are now, entertain us!

This is less a request and more of a demand.  And our culture thrives on this demand.  The biggest sin in our culture is boredom.

But how much of this outer noise and distraction merely mirrors our own inner noise and chaos? How much of it is fueled by all of this high-speed, technological stimuli?

I think most Christians would be far more willing to fast from food than they would be their gadgets and their technology.  Many would wonder, "Do I exist if I don't get enough likes?" or "repins" or "followers" or "retweets" and so on.  In this modern age, would Jesus have told the rich young ruler to give up his technology?  How would we react if He asked them same of us?  Would we turn away, sadly?  Jesus tells us to "deny ourselves" but we gloss over that to fit the denying into something we are willing to give up, or using specific times, such as Lint, to give things up momentarily.  Yet how does all this time online affect our relationship with a God who tells us, "Be still?"  Can we?  Or do our minds buzz like beehives with anxiety of what is going on in the online world without us. Instead of, "I think, therefore I am," we are now, "I text, therefore I am." #Hashtag that.

"Neuroscience studies are now showing that the neural pathways of our brains are being rewired accordingly so that our capacity for sustained attention is decreasing," Richard J. Foster wrote in his book Sanctuary for the Soul.  What do we lose when we lose that?

Simone Weil wrote, "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."  When we pay attention to someone or something, we are focusing solely on that and not a million other distractions.  We are letting that person know how important they are to us.  It is real connection, not getting a "like."

When we become so connected into the cyber world, we lose connection to the natural world.  I know I can be guilty of this.  How many times am I too busy taking photographs of what I "see" to post on social media than I am being in the moment and solely enjoying that moment for no other reason than it is the glorious creation of our Creator.  I know I am too guilty, so much so my kids ask, "Are you going to post this on Facebook?" or "write about it on your blog?"

And what do our kids lose when the world they know best is the one from Minecraft?  How many of our kids can recognize these animals over their real world counterparts?


I work for a toy company.  Years ago, it used to be that you could keep a child in toys until the age of ten. Now that is no longer the case as younger and younger children clamor for technology of their own. By giving it to them, how are we, as their parents, damaging not only their imaginations but also their ability to not always be connected in ways that are not real?


How many kids today can't even go on a short drive without their iPods, iPads, tablets, smart phones, or watching a DVD on a small screen in the minivan?


Excess. 

We live in technological excess.  

And this carries over into all areas of our life: family, work, even our worship is effected.  In a survey done by Tyndale University College and Seminary, they found that 35% of church leaders believe that their congregations are too focused on their technology.  We have become more fascinated by the Internet than we are worshipful of the ineffable.  

If C.S. Lewis were alive today, I think he would have written a book entitled The Screwtape Texts. Technology has made it harder for us to focus, even on almighty God because we have shorter attention spans, demand instant gratification, and do not take the time to truly study scripture or spend time in prayer and meditation.  

The writer Kate Harris said that the two biggest hinderances to our faith are fear and fantasy because they both exist in the "What if?" that removes us from reality.  How true this is in relations to our obsession with our technology.

This was certainly shown when women admitted to feeling inferior as wives and mothers because of Pinterest.  They were comparing themselves to the fantasy of what others' homes, meals, crafts, and family life were like in the world of pinning.  

How many of us feel like we don't measure up because of the Internet? 

We can no longer focus on one thing: texting, checking social media, watching TV, tweeting . . . Even at concerts, we can't enjoy the performance for being on our smartphones.  

We no longer just watch television, we binge watch our favorites in a mad-dash to watch either an entire season or entire seasons of programming.  

Yet how much of our focus is on our screens and not our God? Our family?  Our church service? The world around us?  

No longer do we behold our God, behold His creation.  We are losing focus on the things that are eternal and real.  We are building our homes not on the rock but in the invisible empires (to borrow a term from Sara Groves) of the Internet.  Is our technology our servant or our master?  We need to cling less to the finiteness of our technology for the infiniteness of our Father. We no longer have wooden idols but ones that come in nice, sleek packaging with Apples on them.  Like our ancestors, we worship the things that are made by our own hands.

So I have to stop and ask myself:

Can I purposefully unplug?  

Can I seek real experience and real connection without needing to then hurry and write about it or post something on social media?  

Can I "disconnect to reconnect?"  

Can I slow down in this frenetically paced technological world and just be again?  

Ask me. 

In person.  

Let's have a conversation.  

Let's go for a walk.  

Let's spend some time together.  

Let's leave our virtual worlds and meet together in the real one.  

I have a feeling our time together will be more substantial, less stressful, and more real.  











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