The screens of our phones, TV's, computers, and tablets are keeping us apart. While technology has brought people together, it also has a de-personalizing effect.
Almost 100 million people seek companionship through dating apps like Tinder. A recent article in Vanity Fair chronicles the "dating apocalypse." It describes the impersonal nature of dating and the rise of casual "hook ups." Life behind a screen can devalue intimate human experiences, and turn sex into a transaction.
I was talking to a residential life director at a university who described a freshman at orientation. "He came up to me in a panic because his new roommate hadn't responded to his text," she said. Since the two students had not yet met in person, the director said, "I know what he looks like. I'll introduce you to him." The freshman replied, "But what will I say to him?"
Her point? Students are proficient behind a screen, but they've lost the ability for interpersonal communication.
We all spend too much time behind screens. (I write this in the glow of my computer.) I know so many people longing for real, honest relationships.
How can we break out from behind the screen? Eight ideas. Feel free to add your own.
Eat Meals with People
This sounds odd, but a Washington Post article noted that the number of people who eat alone tripled between the 1960's and 1990's. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of Americans regularly ate on their own.
Meals have long been a cultural symbol of unity, friendship, and acceptance. If you have a family, EAT TOGETHER! Make dinnertime sacred. If you're single, gather some friends for a monthly (or weekly) potluck.
I regularly send postcards to people instead of a quick text or e-mail. Sending a postcard says, "I took the time to find your address and write you a note by hand. And I worked really hard to make it legible. And then I spent 35 cents for the mailman to pick it up! And then they drove it to your house and physically placed it in your mailbox!"
Make a Phone Call
It's easier to send a text. You avoid the small talk. It's quick and convenient. Calling someone takes time. It could last as long as 10 minutes. And the conversation might be unpredictable or reach an awkward moment.
So make the call. Call Mom. Call the friend you haven't talked to in years. Call your cousin. Call your old neighbor. Just call.
Declare certain hours in your day to be "screen free." No TV. No computer. Set the phone down. Can you handle it?!!! You're twitching already.
Block out a couple days. Pack your bags. Take a trip. Surprise your parents or grandparents. Visit your old college roommate who lives across the country. Take a day trip to have lunch with your godson across the state. The fact that you took the time (and spent the money on gas or airfare) will make your visit memorable.
Walk Your Neighborhood
Cars isolate us like screens do. Millions of Americans spend hours a week by themselves in a car. With the advent of attached garages, you can go in and out of your house without ever speaking to your neighbor.
So walk your street. Bump into a neighbor. Meet someone new. And enjoy some fresh air.
Look at Me!!!!
Make a pact with yourself never to look at your phone when in a conversation. Maintain eye contact. Even when you feel the phone buzzing in your pocket. Hold it. Stare into the whites of their eyes. The text will be there when the conversation is over. The person you're talking to is the most important person in the world at that moment.
They're still talking. Listen to them . . . you're doing great . . . conversation is over. You did it! I knew you could.
The Christian faith is inherently personal.
Divinity in flesh, with skin and bone.
A sacred meal with bread and wine.
A bodily resurrection.
This is the God who saved you. Not with the click of a button or swipe of a screen. But with his life.