I was sitting in a coffee shop a few weeks ago. A group of young girls had gathered together to meet with each other. There were probably about six girls sitting at the table with their coffee. What I observed did not surprise me because I am becoming more and more accustomed to this sight—they were not conversing with each other! They sat together, drank coffee and texted! Not one word! Silence! I wondered why they bothered to get together because they hardly said two words to each other.
Daniel Goleman, the author and psychologist says that, "Digital engagement comes at a cost in face time with real people." Goleman says that young people are lonely and losing the 'ability' to converse. Yes, the 'ability!' That scares me because we are becoming more connected to each other via social media, but more isolated, lonely and distant from each other.
I understand that using electronic gadgets does develop certain cognitive skills, but there are increasing concerns among psychologists and educationalists about the deficit in core mental skills.
One of the other problems is that there is attention decline in adults. A few years ago, Goleman notes, you could make a five-minute video for a presentation at your work place—today we keep it to a minute and a half.
I am not a psychologist though I have done a number of years of study in that field—I am a professor with a growing awareness of the problem of lack of communication.
I do think there are some things we can do to prevent this problem from escalating.
- Be disciplined: Don't have our phones at meal times. When we go out for a coffee with a friend have the courtesy to put our phone in our pocket and leave it there.
- Make some decisions: Our phone will not govern us, but we will govern it. How many times we stop for the ping because we don't want to miss a text. What did we do ten years ago? I will tell you! We talked a whole lot more.
- Don't be distracted: Our mobile devices can become the biggest distraction.
- Read books: We are not reading books anymore and that is scary because we are losing our ability to concentrate for particular lengths of time and we are also losing our vocabulary.
- Limit your digital engagement: Just as we put restrictions on our kids with watching TV we need to restrict our time in digital engagement.
I do believe communication is vital for healthy societies and communities. Don't hide behind your screen. I am always surprised at how introverted (and extroverted) and shy people can be so bold, arrogant, rude, and critical on social media. They say things they would never say to any person. How strange is that?
I love the technological advances as much as anyone. But lets be aware of the dangers and resist them before it is too late.
I am and always will be,
recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,