So there I was, sitting comfortably inside a church pew listening to one of Dallas’ most popular preachers spreading his message, when curiously, I decided to gaze around and take note of others cell phone usage. What I saw was the inspiration of this week’s topic.
The Preacher’s message this week was very timely: How to take a day off; not only taking at least one day off each week from anything work-related, but really taking it off away from cell phones, computers, and anything electronic which could distract from quality time with family, friends, or doing something one regards as relaxing. You’d think a meager hour on a Sunday, in a church, among other believers would demand some undivided attention; it certainly does mine, but what I saw really blew me away.
As I looked to my immediate left, a woman I’ve known for several years was typing away, flipping through text, and scrolling between her phones screen pages at lightning speed. To my right, I saw several children, each doing the same. The row of seats in front of me, I counted at least ten pairs of eyes looking downward, diverting their attention to the small glows atop their laps. Then I casually glanced backward, the same, everywhere.
After watching this modern day spectacle, some friends and I met to each lunch. Well, needless to say, more of the same occurred between bites of chips, salsa, and main course meals. Very little real conversation seemed to be going on among the small restaurant as I surveyed each booth. Rather, loud talking into speakers and answering ring tones as they continually attacked from all angles. And the tables where children and parents sat together? The children typed away as their parents sat, staring into space, appearing almost helpless and powerless to stop the madness.
Later that evening, I had dinner with a lovely woman who I’ve been friends with for a couple of years. She’s recently divorced with two kids (teenagers) and it was her ex-husbands weekend for visitation. As we drove to a local restaurant I saw her dreaded I-phone enter my peripheral vision. I say this because she’s one I consider a phone-a-holic. Much to my pleasure, her conversation to one of her kids was cut short, thank God, thanks to a dead battery. Minutes later, she asks me, “Could I borrow yours for a minute?”
“Sorry, I don’t have it with me.” I proudly said.
“We’re only going to be gone for an hour, maybe, so why would I need it?”
“What if you have an emergency?”
I laughed. “You mean a life-changing, death defying one during the next hour?”
“Ya’ll,” she almost shouted.
I could almost sense panic within her as I continued laughing inside. “Listen, you’ll be home soon, besides your kids are fine, they’re with their father, and you just talked with them, what, five minutes ago? Sorry, but I’m not understanding the urgency here.”
Needless to say, I’m sure she ran toward her phones battery charger upon entering her doorway. Now, I’m having a little fun right now, but here’s the point: Have we entered an era of complete dependency on electronic communication, making us feel almost lost without it, if even for a few minutes? Has our independence as individuals taken a back seat to key strokes, and symbols on a screen instead of the spoken word? Are we, as human beings, destined to be robotic in our approach to inter-personal relationships? Do many always desire to be wanted, needed, or even competitive with others according to the number of texts and e-mails they receive? And I ask, whatever happened to living a peaceful lifestyle, i.e. a springtime walk, uninterrupted romantic date, meal with family or friends, vacation, or alone time immersed inside a novel on a rainy day away from the constraint, self-dependency, and control of ringing gadgets? Now, using these devices for work during business hours is, of course, a requirement for most of us. Even some personal usage is realistically desirable. But, being shackled 24/7 is, in my opinion, not healthy at all to ones mental balance.
One way to healthy living and avoiding lots of unwanted stress is setting personal boundaries with how we communicate. And whether you’re sitting inside a church pew, eating at a restaurant, gazing inside your lovers eyes, or lounging atop your favorite beach, there’s a time and place for staying electronically connected-- it’s a simple matter of discipline and using proper respect, and etiquette towards others. Personally, I won’t have a relationship with someone who prefers typing to actually talking. It just isn’t, in my opinion, a respectful way of having a connection.
I fear for our youth. They’ve been raised with this type of communicating and rarely do I see any talking one-on-one, face-to-face without some form of gadgetry interrupting. It’s as though their reliance on cell phones and computers have become part of their DNA and their only way of expression is through texting or e-mailing. I only hope as they grow older they begin to see, and learn the true value of expression without an omnipresent force tugging at their fingertips.
Thanks for listening…