Social But Not Sociable

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While on a short vacation, I took a river tour along the Colorado River near Laughlin, Nevada. A recorded voice gave us highlights of the history and geography and stories about the town. On the tour were a couple with small children. The boy and girl looked out the windows while the parents both had their noses in their cell phones. At one point, an older gentleman with a cane came in looking for a seat. The children were taking up two chairs but the parents were oblivious. I got up to give him my seat while they focused on their phones.

Call me old-fashioned but I wasn’t impressed with their parenting. What a missed chance to talk with each other, pointing out the beautiful scenery along the river and spending time together as a family. When did our mobile phones become more important than the people we love? We can’t really blame technology and we certainly can’t stop its progress, but it seems we do need to take steps to keep it from taking over our lives. It used to be easy to get away from telephones, TV and other intrusions, but now we must make a concerted and purposeful effort to shut out the distractions. It’s not easy.

One company made a series of advertisements showing what happens to a family when the Internet goes out. After seven minutes, the daughter plays piano (badly) while the others cringe. At 10 minutes, they find a restaurant in the phone book but there’s no review. The dad says he can’t eat there if he doesn’t know what people think. Other ads show them going crazy,
trying desperately to get online, even spying on the neighbour’s computer. Some of us remember when the Internet didn’t exist. What did we do? How did we entertain ourselves? How did we survive?

Well, we read books and newspapers (I hope no one asks what those are). We played board games and took walks. We looked at the sunsets and the stars. We even talked to each other! The art of conversation seems to be going the way of churning butter—no one does it anymore and some don’t even know how. As leaders and role models, we need to set an example by unplugging whenever possible. If we practice this ourselves, maybe we can teach others to look people in the eye and talk—and try not to wonder what’s happening on social media. Maybe we can relearn how to be sociable, rather than social. Our kids can use technology but not live in a cyber world of fantasy where bad behaviour has no consequences. God, who created us for relationship with Himself and others, meant for those relationships to be face to face, not face to screen. Let’s all work on having more face to face, eye to eye time and put the gadgets in their place—useful tools when we need them, but out of sight when a real, live human being might need us more.