One of the best quotes I heard early in my career was “you have two ears, and one mouth, use them proportionately” I’m aging myself by saying this, but that quote was shared to me before Google, Yahoo, and even Prodigy existed. In fact, Mark Zuckerburg was likely just getting ready for his first day of Kindergarten about the same time this prolific quote was shared with me.
Can you relate? It was a simpler time. Yes there were land line phones, and we even had cell phones. Granted the cell phones were outlandishly expensive for each minute of use, and those that had them somehow were deemed affluent. Let us not forget the battery life on the cell phone back then was less than an hour if you were lucky. In those days we actually had to communicate. We didn’t “tweet”, we didn’t send an email to wish someone a happy birthday, and we didn’t send a text to our sweetheart to let them know we were thinking about them. We communicated. Having a book of stamps was commonplace, and we were diligent at the costs when we made a long distance phone call.
I’m incredibly guilty of being enamored with the use of technology. I carry an iphone 5, which I can’t use have the features on it. I have an iPad, and the latest and greatest Mac Pro. I have Facebook, I now tweet, and I’m learning about this thing called “blogs” as I write this. When it comes to email I’m a pro. On any given day I keenly sift thru 150-200 emails that require my attention to some degree. Texting? You bet, I’ve got the unlimited use plan and I’m not afraid to use it.
To further date myself, I remember when Blackberries were “the thing” to have for corporate use. Where I worked, senior management was issued one. They were quickly nicknamed the “crackberry.” It was almost comical being in a meeting, or out to a fancy dinner with colleagues or customers. Meetings, or company dinners are times specifically designed for communication and collaboration, yet us crackberry addicts simply could not put the crackberry down. I’m embarrassed to say that my wife used to ask if I was married to my Blackberry or her! Do you know the medical community at that time actually had a medical condition for arthritis in the neck and upper back? People literally were getting a crooked neck and back from hunching over the ever important Blackberry.
We have evolved now from the early days of the pioneering Blackberry. Today black and white screens are unheard of, and todays “smart phones” have more computing power than multi-million dollar computers just ten years prior. Yes, we are deep into the era of smart phones, where owning one simply increases your IQ by 20% and you have the world at your fingertips. You’d believe that last statement only if you believe how the advertisements “pitch” these Smart Phones.
As the video does a better job explaining than I can; we have become a culture that is time poor, lacking in the ability to communicate, dumbed down our ability to relate with others, and idolize these crazy gadgets more than we do our family and friends. Disagree with that last statement? I challenge you. For the next week, document how much time per day you spend on your smart phone or tablet. When you go out to a restaurant with friends or family, force yourself to turn the phone off and focus on those you are there with and expect the same from them. While out at the same restaurant with your phone tucked away and off, look around. Look at the families sitting at other tables, engrossed with their smart phones. Does it look like they are having healthy conversations as a family? Does it look like their family is bonding, sharing, and communicating in an effective manner? I know you’ll be honest with yourself like I had to be when I asked myself these questions. The answer is no, the smart phone isnt helping me win.
The bible also has some great advice on the importance of “listen to listen.”
- The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
- Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger James 1:19
- If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
If you believe God himself doesn’t know a thing or two about communication and prefer a more “worldly” character, how about Albert Einstein. He was quoted as saying: “I fear the day our technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
Have I begun to build a valid case that states that technology can be equally as dangerous as it is beneficial? Let me continue. Here are a few things we as a culture had no experience with prior to social media:
- Cyber Bullying: the only type of bullying we knew prior was the one that took your school lunch and eventually the same kid someone knocked out on the playground. Today a week can not go by without hearing a child (or even an adult) who’s committed suicide due to cyber bullying. Have we become so evil, and have we become so thin skinned it resorts to this?
- Trolls: This very concept of “trolling” to cause anguish in a group really didn’t exist. If you wanted to stir up the pot, you had to show up to the group meeting and do it yourself! Usually if you did, you’d quickly be ousted.
- Narcissism was a word rarely used outside of the “psych ward” in days of yore. Do you know there are countless studies today that link a substantial increase in Narcissism diagnoses to social media? Think about it.
- Ugly communication: I”ve heard them referred to as “Internet Jedi’s” These are the “tough guys” that sit behind a computer acting tough, threatening and putting down others, attempting to publicly lambast others on websites, forums, social media, etc…. I’d be wiling to bet most “internet Jedi’s post from their moms basement and would never have the cajones to say 1/10th of what they post on the internet to someone in person. These ones make me laugh the most. Their lives are so shallow they use a fake name, post fake information, use fake email addresses to harass you because they are too weak to contact you in person.
- Child Stalking: Prior to the internet, if a mentally unstable adult wanted to stalk under age boys and girls for sexual reasons, they had a pair of binoculars and knew how to climb a tree. They also understood the risk of getting caught meant the fathers double barrel shot gun with buck shot would be chasing them out of that tree.
Social Media, Smart Phones, Technology can and are all wonderful inventions. They allow us the means to reconnect with long lost and distant friends, get driving directions when we are lost, post incredibly awesome and funny memes, and just “geek out” on occasion. Where I believe we go wrong is when we mistake these tools as “the” way we need to communicate. A handshake, a look into someones eye as you talk with them, attempting to hear before you try to be heard? These are methods in how God designed us to communicate.
So Whether I’ve built a case for you to ponder or not, I’ve had my fill of social media today. I need to remove myself from the soap box before my wife and family accuse me of “the pot calling the kettle black” 🙂