Connected or Disconnected? That is the Question!

shutterstock_140568448Last night I walked into a fine dining establishment and was shocked by what I saw. Couples, families, groups of friends sitting together at tables yet absorbed in different worlds, each staring into the device of their choice, oblivious to the souls around them.

Last week I watched a 13 year old girl walk into a light post while texting.

Today a 6 year old boy stumbled onto the plane I was riding. His mom held him by one hand as he fumbled trying to play a game on some device he was holding in the other hand. The pilot of the plane greeted the boy. “Good morning son, thank you for riding on my plane.”  The boy never looked up or even acknowledged the pilot’s greeting.

He ignored a real pilot flying a real plane, perhaps because he was flying his own imaginary pixelated plane. His world didn’t require conversation, or interaction or common manners. How sad.

A guest in our home recently brought her “device” with her.  This beloved friend spent hours showing us her favorite YouTube videos. Reminded me of my childhood, when people would invite us to their home and show endless hours of home movies until I was begging my parents to shoot me.

Imagine someone back then bringing their television to your house and making you watch sitcoms they enjoy, or bringing ten photo albums and making you look at each picture until your fingernails itched.

The worst thing about all of this is that I often fall into the same trap. Join me for lunch and I confess that more than once my hands might twitch as if pulled by some unseen spirit toward my iPhone. We are constantly distracted from hearing the voice, looking into the eyes, touching the hand of a real “in-the-flesh” person as we stumble to respond to the incessant vibration, ding or obnoxious ring tone of a device. Is there anything more important than the real person we are with?

Wait… I feel the vibration!

 

  • Stock prices are up!
  • A Facebook friend just bungee jumped off the church steeple with a “gopro” attached to his ear!
  • One of the Kardashian’s broke a fingernail!
  • An e-mail!
  • A text!
  • Breaking news!

How did we live without this insanity? Quite well, thank you.

Technology has brought with it wonderful opportunity. When the name of the first movie with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart slips our mind, how amazing to have the answer at our fingertips. My grandchildren can notify me of their latest accomplishment. Diane can send a love note when I’m miles from home.

Yet how tragic if old movies are never discussed because there is no conversation. Or two people in love sit at lunch and never look at each other’s face because they are absorbed in another “face book” all together.

What have we lost because of such accessible technology?

  • Intimacy
  • Relationship
  • Communication Skills
  • Common respect
  • Human life (texting while driving)

I would like to hear your response to the second question…

What have we gained?
How do you manage your screen time? I would like to include your comments in a future post.
Will the next generation know how to build real-time personal relationships? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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31 thoughts on “Connected or Disconnected? That is the Question!

  1. I’m a 47 year old man who fights the what seems like normal operating procedures when it comes to cell phones, I have a Iphone so I’m not speaking out of school here my wife and I have 3 beautiful teenage girls our first born is 18 our 2nd is 16 and our youngest is 14 and one thing I must add they don’t have any devices like a cell phone or an I pad or an I pod which sounds like they are being punished by us but on the contrary they don’t beg or throw fits of rage because it frustrates them as much as it does my wife and I when our youngest daughter who just turned 14 a couple of weeks ago had 3 of her friends here for a sleep over and 2 out of her 3 friends had stupid phones which is what happens when you place a smart phone in the hands of a human being lol it made our daughter feel neglected by them which broke her heart or our 18 and 16 year old ask if they can use our cell to text there friends because when they tried calling them on our land line phone there friends just ignore the call but as soon as they text them they get an almost immediate response it’s a sad thing to see that kids don’t play outside like we did when we were young we are killing ourselves with technology whether it’s smart or not we have to fight against this madness our kids deserve whats best not to be spoiled by technology God help us.

  2. We have become zombies to I=I=I phones which are all about me, me, me not you, not God, not interacting face to face. No one wants to even talk on the phone, which was the previous zombie
    tradition for young people. The solution isn’t simple because it resembles an AA program.

  3. Great topic to address! Honestly, Ken, I’m still wrestling with managing computer/social media screen time (and likely always will), especially when I have to be online for my work. It’s way too easy to “quick” check email or FB.

    However, I’ve conquered the TV black hole by not watching anything unless we schedule in a movie or pre-decide to watch something special or one show. I just leave it off. I think pre-deciding what and how much you will watch is key for managing TV. Oh, and No TV in the bedrooms!

    However, it’s a little harder to do that with phone/Internet use. Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful though:
    *Sometimes setting a timer works: rewarding myself w/ a bit of surfing time after I stay focused for a given amount of time. *Reserving those pockets of time when my kids/hubby are home as no screen time. *Setting a rule of no screens at the table during meals. *Putting the iPod, cell phone, etc., out of reach and out of ear- and eye-shot is effective. *I force myself to take periodic short sabbaticals (even just half a day helps). *We occasionally vacation where we have no access to Internet or cell service (totally refreshing!)

    As far as our kiddos: *Our children do not get their own phone until they are 16 (driving), although they can use one of ours if they will be gone and need to have access to a phone. *None of us have smartphones. *We limit the children to a certain amount of screen time per day, especially computer/iPod time.

    I’m looking forward to hearing other strategies. This is an issue we need to address and do something about, not just talk about it, if we want to raise relational children.

    • Julie, Thought you might enjoy this piece I wrote several years ago. It is scheduled for posting around Christmas Forgive the length. I needed some space to develop the thought. Let me know what you think.

      Recently I had a most stimulating discussion with Jeff Goins and
      Michael Hyatt. Our conversation revolved around the disadvantages and
      advantages of social media and its impact on relationships. Jeff Goins
      maintains that social media is not a neutral force that can be used for
      good or evil but rather that in regards to real relationships it is an
      inherently negative force that must be understood and managed carefully
      to keep us from becoming isolated and insulated from real relationships.
      The value of social media is much more informational than relational.
      This has been true of all forms of communication from the beginning of
      time.

      When God wanted to communicate ten rules to live by he used
      the first Ipad, a stone tablet.” It worked just fine.

      I can imagine that Moses’ friends were quite offended when he kept glancing at it during
      dinner.

      When God wanted to call moses into service, he released a new version of the Ipad, “a burning bush.” Although the idea never caught the attention of the Jewish market, Moses
      certainly got the message.

      When God wanted to warn a nation of impending national disaster, he released a stunning version of the Ipad, he domonestrated it by having a finger writing an ominus message on screen the size of a wall.

      When God wanted to give the Israelites directions to the promise land, He released the
      first GPS, with a guidance system that worked day or night. It even had a
      recalculating feature.

      But when God wanted to demonstrate His love for us, when he wanted to extend the possibility of real relationship with Himself, it required nothing less than flesh meeting flesh.

      God in the flesh, though he had in times past communicated by prophets
      and all means of gadgetry now communicated through the living flesh of
      his son. Now the tablets and burning bushes and pillars of fire were
      replaced with noisy dinners, hearty embraces, personal touch and finally Holy blood spilled
      on barren ground,

      I am so glad God didn’t text, e-mail, twitter, blog or Facebook his message of love. If he were living on earth today he might have used those methods to announce his coming, and keep record of his being here, but, only the incarnation, the appearance of God in the flesh could consumate the relationship he desired with us.

      I maintain that Social Media’s greatest contribution is the entree it creates for real relationships
      that are only consummated when flesh touches flesh. I had social media friends but the culmination of relationship happened when we looked each other in the eye, shook hands and broke bread together.

      Before that we were acquaintances separated by a thin inpenatrible line. When we met, media
      acquaintances became friends relationship was born.

      I am so grateful for my cyber friends. Until I die I will cherish each opportunity to look into the face of people I have only known by their ability to weave words together, I want to hold their hand, hear their voice an begin our walk as real friends. That includes you!

      • I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to comment, Ken. I’m trying to re-prioritize and gain margin in my life. I love this piece. You have a wonderful, refreshing way of looking at everyday things and events and spawning incredible insights out of them.

        I’m relatively new at this social media thing (3 years). My main reason for avoiding it was in line with Jeff’s caution: my believe that little good could come from it, including in the relationship arena. However, I discounted the door social media opened for creating additional opportunities for relationship. In other words, social media added opportunities for meeting others in the flesh that I never would have had otherwise. I assume as I reach more people online, this in-flesh benefit will continue to increase as well.

        I also agree with Jeff that social media needs to be closely managed. It will steal away in-real-life relationships as well as our time, sense of worth, and peace if we’re not careful. It can easily become a Baal in our lives.

        Specifically, one of your last sentences confused me a bit. Perhaps adding “previously” between “only” and “known” as in “Until I die I will cherish each opportunity to look into the face of people I have only previously known by their ability to weave words together, I want to hold their hand, hear their voice an begin our walk as real friends.” would clarify your meaning (if indeed I properly grasped it). Don’t miss making the comma after “together” a period; also pluralize “hands” and “voices.” Please forgive the editorial advice. I can’t seem to completely turn it off after hours.

        I’m looking forward to the posting of this message. So grateful God chose relationship over expediency. I’m also grateful you are obedient and passionate in sharing laughter and love with the world. May you enjoy a Christmas blessed with an overflow of both.

  4. I love how technology allows me to convey my thoughts and love to my son while he is away at college–sometimes a text that just says I love you makes his day and makes mine when he responds. He and I are approx 8 hours away from each other and through texts and messages and pixs I can see what he is working on. It’s a pretty cool thing.

    I also love being able to see my the pictures and witty things going on in my friends life. I like that facebook and twitter allows me to go, see, but leave (instead of being forced to look at picture after picture of weddings, grandchildren or cute and fuzzy kittens with funny sayings underneath).

    The good thing is my mom, who just became a great grandmother, was able to see the two newest additions to our family through my sister’s ipad since the parents and babies are in Austin, Texas and my mother is in New York. Seeing the look of amazement on her face while she watched her grandson give her great grandson a bath is a vision I will never forget. It was magic.
    That is when technology is truly at it’s best.

    When it’s at its worst is when you go out and see families all engrossed in their devices and missing the wonderful antics of their toddler or a couple who would rather sit across and read email than talk. I can’t count the many times I have seen a child trying to get their parent’s attention as that parent is staring at a screen.

    Just like we needed to learn the social graces of greeting people, we need to learn social graces with social media. The way I deal with tech craziness is whenever I am with someone I turn the phone off so I can stay connected in person. I won’t lie–it takes a while to learn to leave the phone off. If I am standing in line at the bank, waiting for someone or by myself, I leave the phone on and check it when it occurs to me. At work, the phone remains off until the end of the day. I have to police myself and set boundaries or I could easily fall into the tech trap.

  5. Thank you for addressing this, Ken. I agree it is so sad to see people with their eyes and fingers glued to a thing instead of being in the real world. I have an iPhone, but I am not glued to it, especially when enjoying the company of others. I have precious little time with my family, and I don’t want to waste it on this little toy. yes, I’ll look up an interesting fact, or use it to prove a point (my competitive side), but otherwise it stays in my purse. I use my tablet almost exclusively at home (I live alone), with few exceptions when I know my attention is not needed or wanted.

  6. I usually just check e-mails, text messages and make phone calls on my phone. I’m not stuck to it like others are. The thing that disturbs me is that my daughter will not respond to a telephone call but if I instantly text after trying to call she will respond. Text messages can be so misunderstood. You need to hear the voice to know more than just words alone. Smart phones have definitely hurt regarding communication and because of that, relationships. I do not like seeing all the people on their phones instead of enjoying conversaation the people they are with in a restaurant.

  7. Ken: What would happen do you think, if we, (and I say we because even this pastor falls into that trap on occasion) picked up our bibles and read what God has said and done, or spent that time communicating with God our closest, “bestest” (to use my granddaughter’s word) friend? Maybe we would value the face-to-face connections instead of “Face Time”, “Facebook”, “Tweeting” etc.Thank you for the reminder!

    Pastor Rahim Shabazz, Saginaw West Michigan Avenue, and Midland Poseyville UMC

    • I actually think that if Jesus still walked on earth today, he would use modern technology. However he would use it to the glory of the Father not to take selfies. Can’t wait to ask Himl

  8. I try not to keep my phone with me all the time, especially at work. I also try not to use the computer all evening. I just check in on what I need to and then shut it off.

  9. I totally agree with you. At all our extended family times we ask for all phones to be turned off. This is still a work in progress but we enforce it the best way possible. After today being at jury duty, I could see that this mode of “conversation” would be the only that is allowed because a juror cannot talk with another juror about anything, so just get their phone number and text back and forth…many were doing this but not with another juror. Some benefits to this technology is finding facts that get forgotten or playing music during dinner or a picnic lunch when all that is required is background ambience.

  10. Brother Ken, I guess I’m right up to date. I spend a lot of time seeking the “FACE’ of my best “FRIEND” in an old, “BOOK.” Bud Atkinson

  11. My kids were almost totally portable tech/device free until their (elementary) school required that they have a tablet/iPad for schoolwork. Then I’d go to school and see whole lots of kids sitting in a row facing their ‘devices’ just like the picture you posted!

    However, our two older girls who have the devices are really engaged with people and display beautiful manners and interaction with others.

    So here are eight (not all) of the strategies we use:

    1) We restrict their usage to a certain amount of time per day. In fact, if they have done something that deserves punishment, they get time taken off their device usage.
    2) They do not have cell phones or that capability on their tablets. They can hook up to the Wifi in our home or at school on their tablets, but they are not to be used for calling and texting. There is an ’emergency’ SIM card on my older daughter’s tablet (came with the tablet) and that’s it. (They are provided an emergency phone for other situations that goes back in a bureau in the entryway to our home otherwise.)
    3) There is NO Facebook or similar social networking on their devices (nor does our family use these services on any of our computers – what a waste of time and energy). There is solely email for communication. (This and the lack of a phone has also prevented them being even remotely connected to cyber-bullying issues.)
    4) We TEACH them EVERY DAY how to communicate face-to-face and that they should prefer this mode.
    5) We point out the ridiculous and sad nature of people sitting around texting when someone else is right in front of them, etc. etc.
    6) They can use email for communication regarding school assignments, between us (it’s delightful to receive a question from my daughters during the work day) and they use it a little to share a couple of things with their schoolmates.
    7) No devices at the dinner table – at home or anyone else’s place – until dinner is over or there is something very specific that comes up in conversation that we want to look up. They are then turned off/put away.
    8) We provide them with something constructive to do on their tablets, not just silly games. Do they have silly games as well? Yes. But my oldest daughter (age 11) has used an iPad/tablet to write what is so far a 25,000 word novel, just this year. We specifically bought a tablet mid-year that would provide handwriting capability. My next daughter uses her tablet to research arts and crafts ideas that she actively works on (and she’s written a bit of a story too).

    The school has gotten over their initial device fascination too and now requires that students only use them during certain times. Plus, the kids have gotten over the crush and now are doing much more active things together. A good little Christian school that one!

    Personally, I work as a consultant all over the place – so my mobile phone is invaluable. But I make it a point to turn it off during meetings and conversations with clients, contacts or anyone else. Nor do I look at it while talking with family, friends or even the checkout people (unless I’m accessing my bank accounts to make payments:)). I can easily check it after I am finished. I’m not that important to the survival of humanity that I must instantly answer everyone every second of the day.

    BUT here’s the kicker: Sometimes devices are absolutely necessary. My youngest daughter has an Assistive Communication Device, as she has cerebral palsy and is not able to talk. The ACD (a Vantage Light for those who know) looks like a thick touch tablet. In her case, many professionals are training her and us and trying actively to get her to use it all the time. It’s hard work to get her to ‘speak’ using the tablet. She has a tough time understanding how to use it and how to get her fingers to use it too! So in her case, people want her to use it, front and centre, everywhere as much as possible!!

  12. It’s so true. Dinner time, no one (I’m guilty myself) is really talking. Gotta post that meal on instagram. Gotta update the Facebook status. Group texts! It does drive me loca. We have to try to get back to disconnecting the devices and connecting with our familes. Thank you for this.