Neal and I spent several years as youth leaders. One of my favorite things to do with them was to get away for a week at a time and go to youth camp. There is just something about getting away in God's creation and removing all the distractions of their every day world and seeing them set their hearts on the things of God. It was the mid 90s when we had the privilege to be youth leaders, and cell phones were in their early stages, and truthfully, I think the only thing they really did in those days was make phone calls. Texting might have been around, but the age of the "smart phone" was still several years away. And cell phones were definitely still a luxury, not a commonplace "necessity" the way they seem to be deemed today, but either way, we confiscated any of them that showed up at camp. And they were not allowed to invade the "camp world."
It's not like that anymore. I remember when my oldest would go to youth camp and Facebook was at its peak of popularity. All you had to do was sign in at night and you could catch a clip of a sermon or worship song, you could read commentary on the speaker or activities, and there would always be a larger selection of photographs to peruse to catch sight of the weekend. I'm not going to lie, as a mom at home, I found it had its benefits. But there was always a tiny tug at the back of my heart feeling like something important was being missed. It's why I always made my own son leave his phone at home-- and why I never bought him a phone that did anymore than make a call or send a text message. I didn't want him to miss out on anything God might have for him. And I'm pleased to say that even now, as a young adult, he seems to be better than most about unplugging (but not having a smart phone probably facilitates the mentality.)
My younger two are up at their first youth camp this weekend. Neither of them has even crossed over into the cell phone world yet, and when they do they won't have smart phones either. the iWorld of iPods and iPads and the like are banned from our home after some pretty bad burns with the first burn. So my kids are technologically unplugged. At our old church there was a surrender on even trying to keep the kids from plugging in at camp. I was happy to hear that the church we attend now is trying to foster the unplugged experience, but I've seen a few comments and photos that indicate the attempt isn't completely successful, and I feel that same sad tug at my heart. And I realize, it goes WAY beyond kids and the camp experience.
Someone once pointed out the "bite out of the apple" emblem that represents the iWorld, and how plainly "original sin" is represented there. The picture has stuck with me. The fall to temptation is clear. It has a wide spectrum of possibilities. Sex-ting and inappropriate conversations hit our home hard a few years back. Kids will do and say things "online" that they would never have the courage or audacity to do face to face. It's dangerous, and it moves relationships too fast and grows our kids up way too quickly. Night after night or intimate conversations with an admirer of the opposite sex, then suddenly a first date feels more like a fifth date, and in a world that pushes for physical intimacy, the reasons against it are harder to see. "Falling in love" with a person you've never even seen face to face happens -- I've heard tales of it destroying marriages and families. It's scary.
One young woman sent a highly inappropriate picture to my son. And when I looked at it, in just a few minutes of investigating the background of the photo, I figured out where she lived and where she went to school. I'm just a mom, what about the perverts out there who could look for the exact same information for the purpose of harming her. It was all through a "texting app" that I didn't know my son even had access to. I checked the texts on his phone, I had no idea I had to worry about him texting from his iPod, or that he could even make PHONE CALLS through the little device! Parents need to be educated! It's like parents who let their kids do social networking without even knowing anything about it! If I dropped my teenager off in a bad neighborhood to wander around for a few hours, someone would probably call social services on me, yet millions of parents do the exact same thing on the cyber equivalent of the internet every day.
Then there's the whole "texting and driving" issue (which I confess I have been guilty of). Have you seen the new campaign? "It can wait," they say. And I'm starting to think, they have a really good point.
So yeah, that's the scarier side, but even the mundane aspect of it is pretty sad. I went away for a weekend with a group of girlfriends not long ago, and it was kind of sad how much of it was spent looking at the top half of their faces over their cell phones and iPads. And what about the multitude of mommies out there that are too busy to engage with their kiddos because they are documenting everything on Facebook and Instagram? I know, I know, I've got a plank in my own eye here on this one, but still, it's an issue.
Have you ever say on the other side of the phone? You're out to dinner talking with a friend, or on a date with your spouse and while you're actually trying to engage you feel like you only have a small percentage of their actual attention because they're busy having some other pressing conversation via text, or checking the football scores, or just more interested in interacting on Facebook? I've been there (probably on both sides of the situation) and I have felt both the guilt and the pain of one or both parties just not being 100% PRESENT!
Two ends of a seriously hazardous electrical issue. False and fast intimacy on one end, and detrimental and damaged intimacy on the other. Nobody even knows how to unplug anymore. Nobody really wants to. And I think the whole big deal of it is probably coming between us and God. If we cannot focus properly on what is real and tangible and right in front of us, how can we let go long enough to connect our hearts to the invisible God.
I've tried to implement little things. I stopped bringing my phone in the bedroom at night so it wasn't my first go to in the morning... but it's been back. I have intended to leave it away from the dinner table, or on a date, but my resistance has waned. I confess, I am pointing at the splinters in the eyes around me while I am looking over the enormous plank in my own eye, but I am not alone.
It's August 1st tomorrow, and I don't know the specifics yet, but I'm thinking it's a good day to start some sort of "electrical experiment." What can I do? What should I do? Banish the phone once again from the bedroom, from the kitchen, maybe from any opportunity I have time to spend with a friend or loved one IRL (In Real Life.) I can feel the burden on my heart, something's gotta give. I don't know all the details yet, but it's time for a change. Care to join me?