Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Facebook is an extension of my brain"

Will you tell me a secret? If not me, then is there someone in your life you can confide in when you need to? According to research, over the past two decades, the number of people who say they do not have a single person with whom they can discuss important matters has doubled.

Friends meeting together and sharing their lives has eroded as the media gadgets and technology available to stay connected with people all over the world has exploded. People with 500 Facebook "friends" and a stream of Twitter updates lighting up their phone often claim to fell lonely and isolated.

My younger friends tell me that telephone calls and even leaving a voicemail is intrusive and passe. One of my closest friends even told me that if I didn't start texting, she did not know how we could maintain our friendship. She detested talking to me on the phone. (I have joined the 21st century and have text capabilities now). A teen states, "Facebook is an extension of my brain." An eleven year old child warns, "if you don't text, you don't exist."

I am the first to say that technology can be a blessing! I am grateful for the ability to access my digital coupon list at the grocery store, study Spanish on my iPhone while I wait for the doctor, and view photos on Facebook of my friends' children and vacations. I have also learned how to sew an awesome pair of pants by watching a demonstration on YouTube.

Our family's livelihood depends on technology. My husband makes a living by helping to manage a website for American Airlines. Part of his and job is to do everything he can to get you to transact business on the website. Do you want to check on a flight arrival time?--website. Do you want to make a reservation?--website. Find your lost luggage?--website. Don't you even think about talking to a live ticket agent or customer service representative unless you are prepared to pay for it!

We can transact most of our business and communicate with our sphere of friends without ever seeing them in person or even hearing their voice. Is this the new normal? It seems that the perks of technology have come at the cost of personal human interaction. We've settled for a shallow relationship with hundreds of people and found it increasingly difficult to maintain (or begin) authentic relationships with even a few.

I am trying to learn how to reconcile the world of rapid-fire technological connections with the time and effort that must be put into lasting, satisfying, deep relationships. It is a constant struggle, and I don't have all the answers.

But I am convinced of one thing: no matter how much technology advances or how it increases our ability to be connected with others, we are hard-wired to have meaningful, face-to-face interactions with people. This is true regardless of the time and culture in which we live. In his book, Outlive your Life," Max Lucado agrees, and makes a suggestion to boot:

"Call us a fast society, an efficient society, but don't call us a personal society. Our society is set up for isolation. We wear ear buds when we exercise. We communicate vial e-mail and text messages. We enter and exit our houses with gates and garage-door openers. Our mantra: 'I leave you alone. You leave me alone.' Yet God wants his people to be an exception. Let everyone else go the way of computers and keyboards. God's children will be people of hospitality."

Hospitality? Huh? What does it mean for me and my family? Do I have to become Martha Stewart? Invest in some new table linens? Learn to cook beef wellington? No! Max Lucado states,

"Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries, hospitality..."

In my next post, I'll be talking about some ways our family has tried to grow in the area of hospitality, and also share how I was cured of CHAOS syndrome. Stay tuned...