January 1 I Saturday
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11
In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone, a smartphone designed to enable connection anywhere, anytime. With a device smaller than a computer, a person could surf the internet, stream videos and post on social media. For example, I could go on YouTube, subscribe to content producers and have millions of videos streamed into my device that I could take anywhere with me. In fact, I could get notifications sent, alerting me of new content that they have created. There are algorithms studying my behaviour to lob ever more interesting applications. Yet, what sociologists are noticing is that while technology has some positive impact on society, it is actually having negative impacts as well on its users.
Since people are connecting with friends digitally, they are not hanging out with friends physically. They are not learning social cues about presence, and all the other senses we engage with when we learn how to socialize in group settings. This actually leads to less dating amongst young people, because there is less acumen in knowing how to relate to the opposite sex, go on a date or how to be a gentleman or an upstanding woman. All of these things are being threatened as young people spend less time physically together. Additionally, this leads to less sleep, as the blue light inside these technologies activates our cerebral cortex and stimulates us, making it harder to go to sleep at night. The more digitally connected people are getting, the more lonely they feel. We have seen a sharp rise in that since the onset of the smartphone.
We have all felt the symptoms of that this past year, haven’t we? We may agree that it is nice to connect digitally, but who is not sick of relationships mediated through a screen? With the rise of mental health challenges during the pandemic more than any other year, we have seen that technology, while promising relationship and connectivity, oftentimes over-promises and under-delivers.
We may depend on technology, but we also need to recognize its limitations. We have felt those limitations this past year as we miss socialization and shared presence. In fact, I noticed my neighbours are more “neighbourly,” wanting to linger together more than any other time in the last ten years that we lived in our current neighbourhood—why? Because there is a deficiency in technology, as we are created for community.
Maybe this pandemic has brought about some bad behaviours in us, but it also revealed the necessity for relationships. We long for it. As we start this New Year, may we make a resolution to be intentional with connecting with others outside of the screen, and share the love of Christ with them.
Prayer: Glorious God, thank You for creating human beings, and making us relational, because You are relational. Limit my time on the screen and open my eyes to see whom I can intentionally connect with. Amen!