Okay perhaps it is an exaggeration to say that I am going Amish but I am declaring war with technology and I am going to work out a strategy that will make me victorious. Here is why.
We were recently with some friends in Savannah and we walked to a historic park that was canopied by regal oaks draped in Spanish moss. The park’s welcoming atmosphere was accentuated by a number of park benches. As I stood in the middle of the park, I could see every bench and each one was occupied by a person fixated on their phone like a hypnotized gorilla. Rather than being present in the moment, they were lost in cyberspace. They were unaware of the beauty around them and they were oblivious to the presence of others.
This of course was not the first time that I had witnessed such a thing. I have observed couples at dinner ignoring one another as they surfed on their smart phones. I have been nearly knocked down by other pedestrians who were looking at their phones rather than where they were walking. I have seen kids ignore adults trying to talk to them because they were absorbed by an electronic game. I once saw two teenage girls sitting across from each other at a fast food restaurant. Both of them we texting at the same time and one of them let out a short laugh and looked up at the other girl and said, “I know.”
But for whatever reason, the event in that park in Savannah is what did it for me. It made me angry and as I tried to discern why I was so angry, I realized that I too had become a slave to technology and that I needed to fight for my freedom. So now I’m looking for my kilt and some blue paint for my face.
When I was a boy only comic book characters like Dick Tracy had hand held electronic devices. We had one phone in the house and we took turns answering it because no one really liked talking on it. As a matter of fact, I still don’t. Later only emergency personnel like doctors and first responder had pagers. There was a time that if you were a regular civilian and had a pager then you were probably a drug dealer. People didn’t have fourteen ways of instantly reaching one another nor did anyone think about announcing to the world what they ate for dinner. We chopped down trees and made rectangular flat objects we called “paper” and we wrote “letters” to each other using complete sentences and proper grammar. Or even better, when we wanted to talk to someone, we went to their house and spoke to them face to face. What a concept!
While it is often true that the good old days were never as good as we remember, still I believe we were a better people before the advent of social media. I know for certain that while I enjoy many of the wonders of technology, it has made my life more complicated. I have lost my privacy. “Didn’t you get my text/email/voice mail?” Having hundreds of “friends” on social media has increased expectations for me to respond and probably taken time away from my flesh and blood friends. I have found also that when I become a slave to technology I feel less human. What I mean by feeling less human is that rather than experiencing life by taking it in through my God given senses, I see it through the lens of technology and then I am one step removed from the actual event. I become like a photographer who is so busy taking pictures of a rainbow, in order to preserve the moment, that I do not stop to simply take it in and enjoy the moment. I go back to the scene in Savannah of the zombies on park benches. Ignoring nature so that we can surf the web has to make our souls a little more impoverished.
So what am I going to do to get my freedom? I don’t have all the answers yet but I am making a commitment to seek for them. Obviously, since I am making this statement on a blog, I am not abandoning technology. I am, however, going to fight so that I am the master and not a slave.
I am making a commitment to not look at my phone if I am with others. The people that I am with will be my priority. On my days off I will not answer a phone, look at email or get on Facebook. A day off is so that we can be re-created and that does not happen for me through social media. I am going to stop trying to fulfill people’s expectations of instant access to me. I will be available to my flock and family and friends but my availability needs to be within reason. I will not be checking email and texts and Facebook messages all hours of the day and night. If it is important I trust them to give me a call but other than that I will do as I do with snail mail and check the other forms of mail once a day. That will be, I hope, a good start.
I saw a great idea for a new trend. When friends get together at a restaurant they pile their smart phones together. The first one that looks at their phone buys the meal for everyone. That is the kind of creative fighting back I intend to do. Who is with me?