Let me be clear from the outset, I’m not a technophobe. I realize the world has become technology dependent, and as a writer, I am as well to a real extent. But what this post is about is not letting technology, and in particular your smart phone out-smart you by stealing your life away. What I mean by this is technology, and in particular smart phones prompt obsessive compulsive behavior. It really isn’t necessary to text your BFF, or whoever, multiple times, with drivel and trivia and cute photos all the time. This isn’t, after all, direct communication, it’s a surrogate for face to face communication, but no substitute.
I could do a rant about texting while driving, or texting while waiting at stop lights, which is profoundly dangerous behavior. Thankfully it’s banned in some States, and should be banned everywhere. At some point though, one needs TO GET A LIFE, and realize that life does not consist in endless texting of trivia. An emoji is no substitute for a real smile in person, or a real hug or kiss. I realize that what technology has done is ratcheted up and played to the anxieties, especially of young people, that long to be connected to, have real relationships with other human beings, but have a hard time doing it in real time and face to face. But what doth it profit a person if they gain and dominate the whole twittersphere and yet lose their souls and their ability to have genuine personal face to face relationships? One thing all this texting reveals is just how broken and dysfunctional our human relating really is.
Think for a moment about St. Paul and all his many letters— communications sent from a distance, but communications that Paul knew were no substitute for face to face encounters and relating. You can just feel the frustration in a letter like 2 Corinthians, where Paul longs to be with his converts, but can’t get there soon enough, or often enough, or long enough.
By contrast, I’ve run into too many millenials and even boomers who are perfectly happy to keep the world at arm’s length, and have virtual friendships rather than the hard work of real ones. They like having a barrier or filter between themselves and other people— that way they don’t have to smell their BO, or catch their gross behavior, or watch them eat in sloppy fashion, or the like. No, they can maintain their fantasy image of another person by ignoring all the signals of dysfunctionality, all the turn offs, by only catching the person at their very best, or on terms which one can control— via technology and social media. All the inconveniences and incongruities of real time face to face communication and relating can be filtered out or ignored this way— but at a huge cost.
A failure to relate directly to others the majority of the time means a failure to really love and be loved. Love requires a dropping of one’s defenses, a lowering of one’s barriers and a leaving behind of one’s filters. Love, especially Christian love, is supposed to be unconditional, forgiving, overcoming shortcomings, and above all not ephemeral or temporary. Real love is ‘in your face’ love, just as making love requires a person to actually be present with the other person, and making a life, including making another life in the form of a child, requires the same. There is no substitute for direct encounter— with God, with your neighbor, with your family, with your spouse even with your adversaries. You can’t be personal in an impersonal manner or mode or medium and expect that to be enough when it comes to relating. Especially not if you are a Christian.
So, there comes a time to go dark for the sake of the light, to turn off the phone for the sake of the real encounter, to refuse to settle for indirect relating rather than direct relating, and to realize that so much of what is celebrated in our culture— like tweeting or texting for example, is often much ado about not very much, is often trivial pursuit and a huge waste of time. Not always, but often. Not in every case, but all too frequently.
If we want to solve the problems of a fallen and violent world, we need to realize we will not in the end be saved by technology. Technology is a tool, which can become a tyrant, but cannot be a savior. We have been blinded by spectacular science, beguiled by social media, lulled into a sense of complacency by the mantra that the latest is the greatest and the newest is the truest. We have settled for truthiness instead of for the truth about life.
Instead, we will be saved by real persons sacrificing for other real persons in real time, like say— when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. When John’s Gospel says ‘the people who dwell in darkness have seen a great light’, it was not talking about a new app on our phones, or the capacity of the phone to be used instead of cigarette lighters to hold up a light in a concert…. It is talking about an encounter with the most real light the most real person ever– Jesus the light of the world. And there is no substitute for a real relationship with Him, with God. The God-shaped vacuum in the human soul cannot be filled up by endless smiley faces. It can only be filled up by ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’.
Think on these things…