Being Formed by Social Media

This is not a blog against social media. I like social media. In fact, this blog is on a social media site. However, there is something that I would like to ask you. Are there times when you feel, even in the presence of others, that you can’t put your smart phone down? Do you feel that urge to check your Facebook page or post on Instagram? It’s addicting isn’t it? I love posting pictures of my grandson. I am like Mufasa lifting up Simba to the rest of the clan at Pride Rock. (Actually, I guess I would be Ahadi, Mufasa’s dad–hah) Pretty cool that I snuck a picture of him on this blog post, huh? As I held my grandson the other day, the TV was on and I could not get his attention bennettoff the screen and on to me. I kept saying his name, but he was intrigued by the vivid colors on the screen rather than the face of his grandpa. Well, actually, that may have something more to do with the face of his grandpa, but even his mommy said, “He is four months old and I can tell you that I am already going to have to limit his screen time.” I thought that was funny. But it made me wonder. I think sometimes, I too, am enamored with what’s on my screen to the point that I am probably shutting something very important out in order to text, post a picture, capture a moment, play on Snapchat, or check my Twitter feed. Hey, it’s fun! And hey, we live in a digital age and it is here to stay. We had better learn to deal with it in a positive way.

But, am I too buried in my screen to be intimately connected to the ones who matter the most?

That’s the question I want you to ask yourself today. I have over 1400 friends on my Facebook page. This blog will probably be readily available to over 4000 people. If one person shares it, it could go wherever. Some things people post go viral and reach thousands. Others have thousands of followers on Twitter. Out of the 1400 friends on my Facebook page, how many of them am I really close to. I mean, not to be morbid, but I wonder how many of them will be at my funeral? Probably not many. Don’t get me wrong, I love to interact with old high school friends and acquaintances, but the reality is, these are not necessarily the people I do life with every day. How could I? I haven’t seen some of them for over 30 years! It’s not that they don’t matter to me, but why would I sacrifice valuable time with the ones I’m with to check on what might be happening in the life of someone I haven’t seen since 6th grade? (No offense to all of those in Mrs. Byer’s class!)

Am I making myself fully available to my family and my friends when I am in the present moment?

I’m learning that when I’m around the people I love the most, I should try to give the kind of attention to them that they deserve. The older I get, the more I realize that this life is not forever. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t want to miss a quality conversation, a fun game, or making a memory because my face is impaled in my computer screen or iPhone. Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song many years ago that, when I hear it, I always get a little sad. The words are, “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.” Doesn’t that just rip your heart out? It’ true. As I look at my little grandson, he reminds me so much of my son. When I hold him, I see my son. It’s weird. It’s de-ja-vu. (For my daughter-in-law whom I love: yes, my dear, we see you in him too, but you have to admit, he looks a lot like his father.) I say to myself, where did the 30 years go? I want to give myself, my attention, and my love to those I care about the most–I mean, after all, they are the ones who will get up and speak at my funeral! Just kidding. Sort of.

I am not advocating a radical ban of all cell phones, iPads, and laptops!

No way! I love the ability to be connected. I just don’t want my connectivity to interrupt intimate moments with those I long to be with. Whether we are a addicted to our devices or not, all I’m saying is, “Can we be a little more available to each other?” “Can we enjoy the present moment we have to nurture relationship?” Studies show that most of us are starved for relationship. Just because we have so many Facebook friends doesn’t mean we have a lot of intimate relationships. I mean, social media has literally changed our understanding of the word, “friend.” I think if we simply go on about our business without asking these questions, then we will become a generation that is formed with a deficit of knowing how to deal with, communicate with, and understand people. People. Bottom line … that’s all we got … is each other. People. So, family, forgive me if I’m teaching online with my laptop or checking my Fantasy Football team’s scores when I’m supposed to be with you. I truly do love you. But, somehow, I have this urge to multi-task and try to get more accomplished in the time that I’m in your presence. Forgive me. It is a sign of our times, I’m sure. Yet, it doesn’t mean that it will help me be a better father, son, husband, or friend if I do that while I’m with you.
One of my favorite spiritual writers is Jean-Pierre de Caussade. He was born in 1675 … well before … well, anything. He writes about how to trust in God’s presence and active benevolence. In other words, God is always on the scene of our lives and if we can surrender to the present moment and what God is already doing, then we will begin to understand the depth of each and every moment of life. He says:

” The present moment is always overflowing with immeasurable riches, far more than you are able to hold.”

When we are fully attentive to God, we understand more and more that “every moment, the will of God is stretched out before us like a vast ocean which the desires of our hearts can never empty, but more and more of it will be ours as our souls grow in faith, in trust, and in love.” When we are fully attentive to each other when we have a moment together, the opportunity for our souls to grow and to be satisfied is much the same. We become richer people and the Christ and me has the opportunity to connect with the Christ in you.
So, enjoy your new iPhone 7 and your iPads, laptops, notebooks, fitness watch … whatever. But maybe, just maybe, put it away for a moment … a moment during the time you have with someone else. Try talking. It can be life giving.



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