I’m fairly certain that just about every blogger under the sun has written about unplugging and shutting off our electronic devices, but that sure ain’t stopping me from adding my two cents to the mix.
Where I work there is an area of the building that parents are required to wait to pick up the children until after faith formation classes are over (it is a security/safe environment thing). Week after week I watch parents anxiously wait in the hallways until I open the doors and allow them to pick up their children. Week after week they stand in the hallways on their phones. They talk, they text, they play games, they fiddle on their phones. I get it, and I’m just as guilty as the next person. Why then, do we think it is okay to say that we feel so disconnected? The parish I work at is one of the largest in the state and yet I continually hear people say how they don’t know anyone at the parish. Maybe, just maybe, if we turned off our phones, or at the very least, kept them in our pockets, we might meet a new person. Or two. Or more.
I get it. I’m an introvert (much to most people’s surprise). When I’m in line at the grocery store or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop, the first thing I do is pull out my phone and check every social media app I have. What if, even just one day a week, we kept our phones in our pockets instead of fiddling around on them. What if we dared to say hi to the person in line with us? What if, instead of connecting to our social media apps, we connected socially with the people around us? The people I interact with on my phone are no less real than the people I’m in the presence of, so why shouldn’t we be present, truly present, with the people around us?
I’ve got no business complaining or whining about how I never make any new friends if I show up at an event and pull out my phone until someone I already know shows up. Why wait? Why not just start talking or mingling anyway? It is hard, I know. My introverted side loves the battery out of my phone and provides me a realm of sanity when the crowd is full of people I don’t know. But what if I stepped out on a limb, asked the Holy Spirit for a drop of courage, and interacted with the people around me? Sure, maybe some people would be put off by my “Hi, how are you doing?” attitude, but I might also make a new friend in the process. Who knows, I might even encourage others to put their phones away and interact in person. Even more, the whole ‘put your phone away’ idea might be more evangelistic than re-tweeting C.S. Lewis’ latest and greatest tweet anyway.
So put the phone away for a day, or even for an hour. It won’t kill you, and the social media world will survive without you, I promise. Say hi to that person sitting next to you, you never know how it could change your life…or theirs.