Three to four years ago, the only people who had smart phones were the ones who really needed them. They were marketed towards the business elite, the ones whose work relied on instant emails and online information. It seemed like a three-piece suit was required to make a call on a Blackberry.
But now, even middle school students have iPhones. Almost the majority (40%) of cell phone users in 2010 use their phones to go online. Cell phone usage is so rampant that even the advertising for it has become satirical.
In Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, he writes about how most uses of technology for communication are actually driving us apart in our own communities. We’ve become too familiar with the moments of:
- The group conversations where half are engaged and the other half are engaged in Angry Birds.
- Checking email during dinner has replaced television watching (which replaced actual conversation long ago).
- And of course, the epidemic of texting while driving.
Wilson-Hartgrove writes, We ache with desire for true community, yet all of our social habits push us to seek what we’re longing for somewhere else (p.20). Are we perpetually afraid we’re missing out on something elsewhere? Although I’m fully relocated to Southern California, I find myself constantly checking to see what my friends in North Carolina are doing on Facebook, Twitter, and even the newspaper websites there. I’m guilty of this, and I know I’m not alone.
This was a concern that you were supposed to deal with in middle school; knowing that you couldn’t be everywhere at once. But the false promise of communication technology claims otherwise. It affects our feeling of stability...Our feeling that we belong where we are. This is not merely a teenage or emerging adult problem, but one that youth workers face as well. The desire for stability transcends and plagues generations today. The false solution of becoming closer through technology continues to replace face-to-face, personal relationships.
How stable you feel in your surroundings directly correlates with the level of engagement you exert with the people around you. Stability is not a microwave meal. It comes with months and seasons of intentional conversations and actions. This means interacting with not only the people you like but also the ones (you think) you can’t stand.
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