When a high school student was asked what made his generation different from others, the student’s response was simply: “People stay in more often. My generation has lost interest in socializing in person-they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together and they can just stay at home.” The student’s response sheds light on the new reality facing the world today. With much of our attention given to phones, social media, and Netflix, people are unquestionably shying away from physically connecting with others. This, in turn, is creating a paradigm shift in our thinking that is both unhealthy and contrary to God’s design for us as relational beings.
I’ve been saying for some time that kids spend too much time on their phones and mobile devices. Everywhere you look, never looking up, heads always bowed in reverent prayer? I don’t think so. However, when out to dinner a while back I realized that this isn’t just a generational obsession, it goes much deeper. In fact, my generation and even those of my parents have equally fallen into the same socializing dilemma. Sitting around the house I find myself reaching often for my phone to check, what, something I missed since the last commercial break?
More Connected And Disconnected Than Ever Before
There was a time when kids, especially high school-age kids, connected with one another nearly every day. I know this was true in my youth, and I realize I’m an old guy, but as I observe people today, I see personal connections on a lesser and lesser level. I suspect many things attributed to this; organized sports keep parents and kids on the move daily, social media and streaming entertainment all curb the desire and time people have to socialize.
Monitoring the Future has conducted an ongoing study since 1976 of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders examining whether they met with friends every day or nearly every day. From 1976-2000 around 50% of students reported they connected with friends this frequently. However, a significant downward trend started in 2010 and by 2014 only 25% of students reported getting together with friends daily or nearly every day. As the number has continued decreasing each year, studies like these give us a glimpse into a rapidly growing disconnected culture that is moving people towards isolation.
However, this isn’t how God designed us. Man was created to have relationships with others. At the beginning of creation itself the first man, Adam, quickly noticed, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18b) which led to Eve’s creation. When we cut ourselves off from others we miss out on the life-giving relationships God intended for us. There is something to personal interaction beyond a scene. If indeed this is the direction our culture is going to continue in our relational interaction, and it seems it is, there are perhaps a few things we can do to help counter this:
Avoid The Social Media Black Hole
A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so powerfully, not even light can escape. Maybe social media isn’t that intense, but it can sure feel that way when you open Facebook or Instagram and keep scrolling for hours on end. The Public Library of Science conducted a study that showed adults check their phones an average of eighty-five times a day! Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. While a case can certainly be argued for the positive use of social media, (here you are reading this blog) it often produces the opposite result. Studies have found social media usage to be directly tied to feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and depression. The more time you spend trapped on social media the more your mental, emotional, and spiritual health deteriorates.
The solution - really it’s simple: …take a break! Spend a few days away from all your social media outlets. My personal outlet is to take a ride on my Harley. It’s my time to decompress, think, pray, and not have a device in my hands. You will be surprised at how positively this will affect your mood, health, and relationships! Cultivate a healthy relationship with social media, but spend even more time growing socially, mentally, and spiritually.
Get Out Of The House
As mentioned earlier, staying at home is becoming very common. This is increasingly true for the young and older alike. Why go to the movie theater with friends when you can stream a movie to your room and watch it in your pajamas? People are becoming anchored to their homes because they can get everything done through the use of technology. You can deposit checks with a snap of a picture, buy anything you need online, and even have your groceries delivered directly to your doorstep. Comfort and convenience are replacing quality time devoted to building relationships. It’s important to break this cycle and create intentional time to go out with friends and family members. According to Psychology Today, a change of scenery can drastically affect productivity, reduce stress and cause you to change habits. Be deliberate about planning to leave the house and spend quality time with those in your life and add some new people to your life.
Plug Into Church
Our church uses Facebook to stream our services. In some larger cities, online campuses have become a new avenue for ministry for the 21st-century church. It provides an incredible opportunity to minister to those who don’t have transportation, are traveling, or just feeling under the weather. Also, it gives you the ability to minister to people around the world. While these online outlets are excellent, it’s important to remember that watching online should not become a substitute for going to church. Being at church is where connections are made and relationships are built. Reports from both Gallup and Harvard Health Publishing have shown that attending church increases positive emotions and even leads to living longer.
Interestingly it’s true whether you are a Christian or not, it is essential to be connected to a local church. Make a conscious effort to get involved by attending worship services, Bible studies, volunteering and going to church events.
It is essential for us to recognize the importance of living in community and relationship with others. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” As you develop new friendships and build on existing ones, you counter the new norm and bridge the gap of disconnectedness in our culture. You never know who God has waiting in your path to encourage you or be encouraged by you.