In a generation when it’s easier to text someone than walk across the house and ask them something, we so often find the best way to communicate is through our technological devices. Popular YouTuber, Prince Ea, posted a video that caught fire in September of last year. In this he shares his frustration with the world’s consumption of their iPhones. He explains how in reality, they drive us apart rather than bringing us together (the initial intent of the internet). While I think this video is a little overdone, he makes some points that are very strong. One of these being the self-obsession the Internet promotes. “I’m so tired of performing in a pageantry of vanity, and conforming to this accepted form of digital insanity,” says Prince Ea. The extreme infatuation with ourselves, brought on by social media, keeps us from being in relationship with one-another, something that God directly calls us to do.
What’s ironic is, these devices were created to bring people together. We can now call, text, and FaceTime friends that are all over the world, like they are right here next to us. It’s incredible what technology has done for families and relationships that have been severed by distance. Although, often times we think that because we can communicate with anyone this way, we should communicate with everyone this way. We get so caught up with texting the friends who are not with us, that we do not pay any attention to the people who are close by. In the book Flickering Pixels—How Technology Shapes Your Faith, Shane Hipps makes the claim that “Electronic culture disembodies and separates us from those closest to us. Most of us are quite unaware of this phenomenon, and, in fact, believe our technology is bringing us closer.” The paradox of technology is completely accurate: the thing that connects us, separates us.
During my transition from high school to college, I found my experiences to reflect this completely. I made some of the greatest friends in high school, and I have worked extremely hard to make sure we stay in touch. Although, the way I stay in touch with a friend who is many miles away should not be the same way I keep up with someone who lives in the same city as me. In reality, a phone call or text is not enough to maintain a healthy relationship with someone. It’s impossible to “bear one another’s burdens,” when you cannot physically be with a person. Love is face-to-face.
The example Shane Hipps uses is our reaction to a natural disaster. We all feel empathy for these people, and donate money to try and help as much as we can. Although, this compassion drains our energy, it can keep us from investing in the people who are surrounding us.
“The human psyche isn’t designed to withstand the full gravity of planetary suffering. Numbness and exhaustion are natural reactions. Feeling helpless and hopeless is nearly inevitable the heart can only stretch so far so many times before it is worn thin and wrung dry. This is empathy at a distance. Over time, if unchecked this numbness undermines our ability to extend compassion to those in our own city, neighborhood, or even our own homes. The pain of the world, experienced through television, can keep us from understanding and alleviating the pain we encounter in our daily lives. The task of recalibrating our psyche and reigniting our compassion must begin with local relationships.”
—Shane Hipps, Flickering Pixels
We are commanded to love one-another with all that we have, and sometimes that means prioritizing those physically surrounding you. Engage in conversation with your classmates and family members, rather than sitting on your phone to talk to someone else. Love by investing time in people, not just sending them a nice text. Devote to personal interactions. Make love your priority.