Society is full of hollow lures offered by the glass pocket screen we all carry. Its call is that of a phantom, echos from the corner of our minds. Our mobile phones have become leashed to Social Media. Its promise to keep us connected does deliver in keeping distant people informed, but what isolation it has brought to the social piece of life.
Printing five pictures of your routine errands and snail-mailing them to a friend never happened in the past, especially hundreds of acquaintances on multiple days. Generations past could only image the ease with which we can share photos today. But the same technology that provides ease in sharing snapshots is dulling our wits and keeping us satisfied with the low hanging fruit of daily life. It’s as though we’re ducks on a pond, relying on the food that passersby toss to us for survival — dependent on the diet they provide and forgetting how to search for choice food ourselves.
We have the advantage in time to glom on to and absorb human knowledge from more than six millennia past. Yet most of us are content with being constantly entertained by status updates of our friend’s trip to paradise and celebrity updates available at regular intervals throughout the day. Since before I was born, there have been ways to speak to the masses. But most people then relished their 15-minutes of fame1 when it arrived and were glad that it came. Now we all want to be the celebrities of our own world. We want to be noticed, to matter, to have others validate the life that we show the online world — we want to be observed far beyond 15-minutes.
Most, if not all, of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”2 have been met for the majority of people in the Western world. Yet we are still discontent, striving in a merry-go-round to find satisfaction.
Instead of using it as a supplement or even a convenience to staying informed, our mobile devices have become our ‘go to’ for interconnectivity, relying on it when we wake in the morning and as a sub for table conversation. Just notice families sitting around you the next time you visit a restaurant. Chances are that many of your fellow patrons will be mesmerized with their social media feed or even the televisions now hanging on the walls of so many establishments. Interpersonal communication is the exception, beyond the niceties, not the norm.
Recently I heard a radio critique (on the AM band) of today’s music (that traditionally played on the FM band). The distraction of social media and video games is manifesting in the music being written, recorded and aired/streamed online. So much instrumentality and innovation has been replaced by repeating bars of noise while a singer voices a handful of lyrics on top of it, over and over again. This is partial due to the fact that while we (humanity) know more today than ever before, we (individually) are more shallow and have less depth & abstract/critical thinking skills than at almost any time in recorded history. Our brains are now conditioned to accept the low hanging fruit, forgetting that the best fruit is at the top of the tree. And because of impatience and vanity, we rarely teach our children how to climb to the top for this fruit, believing that they will learn it in school. But we are deceived.
We have become a macro-introspective culture that craves social interaction, yet whom pushes all possible opportunities of it away because, we believe, it’s not safe to talk to strangers and that our fellow man is innately less interesting in this moment than our friends’ beautiful lives on FaceBook, Instagram, & Twitter. How we miss out on so much. We think we can google anything, yet we don’t, believing it will always be available when we need access to it. Knowledge remains at our fingertips, though not always accessed. But wisdom cannot be found by a quick Internet search. It comes from the Lord.
Part of the social media attraction is harmless and indeed useful. I, myself, use it to highlight proud moments of my own family. I, too, want and need the likes & comments on the posts that I offer up. But where it rubs me wrong is when natural social interaction is squashed because so many around are transfixed by their vapid pocket screens. And you can usually tell when a person is merely entertaining himself versus using the technology in a meaningful way. The former cheat themselves and possibly others around them of the necessary human interaction that we all crave.
Allow yourself to be bored sometimes. Boredom, I often tell my kids, is the breeding ground for new games. Taken to an adult level, downtime is often when new ideas and thoughts germinate. May we not constantly silence our soulish longing for interaction by distracting it with meaningless chatter offered on social media. The ultimate goal, of course, is love expressed in friendship with other people (philia in Greek), but also bonding with the Creator Himself. And chances are that this does not happen via social updates.
1. For a reference to the phrase 15-minutes of fame, click here.