It was an almost perfect picture.
I was sitting in one of my favourite cafés and sipping a latte happily when a family walked in—a mother with her two children. They all ordered their respective drinks, sat down and for at least half an hour they sat there, all happily employed.
But there was a problem with the picture. Though physically present with her children, this parent was noticeably absent from her children mentally. I observed that her hand and eyes were glued to her cell phone—and when she did smile, it was at its glaring screen. The daughter had headphones in her ears and the son was occupied with an iPad. Not once did word pass between the three of them once they sat down.
Though the picture was almost complete, the picture was broken. It was not quite perfect. This family was together, but at the same time not together.
Seeing this almost-perfect picture made me reflect. I asked myself, “How many potentially perfect pictures have I ruined? Am I ever absent while present?”
I honestly had to confess that too many times I have been guilty of being just like the woman I was observing. I have ruined moments.
I have had periods in my life during which I spent many wasted hours on social media and such like—daily. There have been times when I have felt like I could not go a day without checking my Facebook updates—like maybe the world would stop if I did, or at least I would lose all my friends.
This kind of relationship with social media is unfortunately all too common. But is this really a problem that we have to worry about?
Yes, unfortunately, it is.
I recently read an article that in Singapore they are pushing to have children who are addicted to technology recognized as having an addiction that needs attention. They said that among those children who accessed social media many times a day there were much higher instances of depression, isolation, low self-esteem and lack of focus.
Have you seen and experienced the signs and symptoms of what the experts are now recognizing as a problem? I know that I have.
- I have seen too many children at the park yelling that they want to be pushed on the swing while parents wave them off because their phone is vibrating with exciting new gossip.
- I have seen too many couples stare at cell phones instead of each other while dining at a fancy restaurant.
- I have seen too many children being babysat by Youtube.
- I have had too many friends ignore what I’m saying because they have to check their phone to communicate with all the people who are not present.
- I know too many people who cannot go a few hours (let alone a day) without checking their social media accounts.
- I myself have spent too many hours trawling Facebook timelines and Pinterest boards while neglecting the relationships and responsibilities around me.
I know for a fact that when I spend too much time socializing virtually that my husband, family, church family, friends, self-worth, and ultimately my relationship with God all suffer as a consequence.
The verse which had made me truly re-evaluate myself and seek to change my habits was this one:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV).
When I saw this verse I stopped and asked myself, “Can I honestly say that I am making the best use of my time? Am I taking the time to prepare myself for the challenges that lie before me? Am I taking the time to put what I am learning from God’s word into practice? Are the hours I am spending on Facebook and such like each day a wise use of my time?”
…and at that time I had to honestly answer myself, “No.”
While I realize that social media can be a great way of keeping in touch and—if we use it right—encouraging others; we all need to honestly examine ourselves and see whether social media is enhancing our lives or overtaking them. Questions you could ask yourself might be:
- Do I feel like I must check my preferred social media site daily, or even multiple times a day?
- Do I feel like if I didn’t have social media, I would be cut off and be missing something?
- Do my family and friends have to fight to get my attention over social media?
- Do I go to the internet for comfort and advice, or those around me?
- Am I known as being a person who is always on social media?
- Do I neglect meeting my responsibilities (focus/duties at work and school/duties in the home) in favour of spending time on the internet?
Recently, without knowing how it really happened, my husband and I found ourselves becoming a little too attached to technology. We were gravitating to the computer as soon as dinner was over, staying up late—and as a consequence, reserving little time for each other and feeling disconnected.
My husband and I decided that we were spending too much time on the internet to the neglect of each other and that something needed to be done. We were an imperfect picture. So we decided to lay down some basic ground rules for our house:
- Turn off the internet at 8pm every night and leave it off until the morning.
- Use the time after dinner to get our chores and assignments done (this at the moment means that Patrick does the dishes while I do my assignments. I cook, he cleans. I have the best husband in the world!).
- Get to bed earlier rather than staying up later “relaxing” with technology.
- Do all work at the office and then leave the computer at work (in Patrick’s case).
- Have technology-free dates.
- Remove the internet from our phones.
These rules we have made may seem strict, but at this stage in our lives it was necessary for us in some way to demonstrate that technology does not have a hold over us; because we are striving to live by the rule that Paul lived by. Paul realized that there were a lot of things in life that were perfectly okay, but had to be used within limits. In his words:
‘“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything’ (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV).
We look forward to the time where we can have children and instill in them a proper respect for technology—but for now, we are working on our own habits. We do not want our children to be born into a home overrun by technology. We do not want technology to have a hold over us or them. We want to be available for those around us when they need us. We want to be more in touch with reality. We want to be focused on what is really important—free from distractions.
Are you in control of your use social media, or does it have control of you? Is it helping you achieve your purposes, or is it dominating your life?
I have seen too many people miss beautiful moments and opportunities because of social media—make the decision to stop missing out!
Look up. Reach out. Show love. Live life.
Life is too short to be exchanging opportunities and beautiful moments for a pseudo-reality.
Somehow our ancestors used to live without social media. If you cannot imagine how, then it is probably time to lay down some rules for yourself.
Related Resources and Reads:
Look Up – A Poem That Will Inspire You to Put Down Your Smartphone [Please note: there is one mildly offensive word in this video (not four letter, just coarse)–but the overall message is brilliant and very thought-provoking. If this will upset you, please don’t watch.]
(Linked to Titus 2uesdays; What You Wish Wednesday; Growing in Grace Thursday; Thrive at Home Thursday; Homemaking Link Up; Modest Monday; Make a Difference Mondays; Essential Fridays; Recommendations Saturday; So Much At Home)