Mankind likes to communicate. We like to talk, be in the know, express our emotions. Mankind has painted on cave walls, sent smoke signals, hand written books, used quills, charcoal, pens, stylus, and every conceivable way to communicate. With Gutenberg’s printing press, life changed and the ability to mass produce books became available. Many historians consider the printing press as the most significant invention of the millennium.
Now, just in the past few years, short decades, we have moved to a digital age where communication is instant. I talked once with a man who helped develop the first fax machine. He related how amazing it was to send a document over a phone line and have it print out in another location. He said it took a long time, 10-15 minutes for the first machine, but it was huge in technological advancement.
We have moved so fast that fax machines are hardly ever used. Documents are passed through email, iCloud, airdrop, and other cloud mechanisms. There is the world wide web that now allows people from all over the world to communicate. Documents, artwork, videos, and FaceTime can happen in moments globally. Letters used to take weeks to cross the ocean and reach their destination. Now, oceans are covered in nanoseconds.
For all the wonderful things we have today, there is always an abuse of the miracles of invention.
For instance, the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a number of other less known sites offer individuals the opportunity to communicate. I love to see some of the photos of my grandchildren, great grand children, and family members. I like the posts of significant events in people’s lives. However, Facebook has become and probably will remain a place for people to rant, to put out their feelings against someone or something without having the responsibility to answer for their anger or attacks. Expressing an opinion is one thing, but when social media is used for cowardly attacks or passive aggressive sniping, then it becomes harmful. The cyber bullying that takes place is horrifying, but it happens.
Likewise, we have become less social because we are engaged to our phones rather than the company around us. I have observed couples and families who are sitting together, but everyone is in their phone world. Watching two people supposedly in love, dating, and there they are engrossed in their phones rather than the person in front of them. In business, being tied to your phone will lose a client, lose a job, forfeit a contract. The disengaging that is happening is frightening culturally.
As a pastor, I watch people, particularly younger folks, engrossed in their phones, texting during worship, texting and surfing during the message. It has become so mesmerizing that when you speak to them, you eventually have to tap them or repeat louder their name. And the excuse they were looking at their Bible on the phone is lame.
I was speaking to an executive who said he had taken a message in a meeting and the speaker made a comment back to the CEO that he wondered if he was engaged in the seminar or his phone. Since that comment, he has left his phone in the car for meetings, he has turned the phone off during business dinners.
Actually, in any meeting, social gathering, dinner engagement, it is rude to be engaged in your phone and have it take priority over the person present. I have begun to let things ring, let things wait, just to be engaged in the moment. A text can wait a few minutes, a call back is simple, but being in the moment makes the person you are with important.
Advancements are great, but must be used wisely. We cannot lose the powerful communication of looking someone in the eyes and giving them your full attention.