I must admit, I do not understand the attraction to modern day, so-called “social media”. I am not so old that I cannot learn new things. I am only 51 years old. I do much of my work on a computer. I listen to music, audio books, Bible study, etc. on an mp3 player. I use a flash drive to listen to those same things in my car. I carry a cell phone which provides security in the case of automobile breakdown, wrecks, etc. It also provides great convenience in keeping me from having to make unnecessary trips at a later time because people can get in touch with me while away from home. Technology does not intimidate me nor does it scare me; however, I am more than alarmed at the ever growing levels of addiction to social media. I use technology; it does not use me. I observe so many people who are being not just used by technology, but totally and completely consumed by technology. They literally accomplish nothing else.
This week in my routine activities, I observed firsthand the great damage, at least in my opinion, being done to individuals and society by this addiction. As I drove my son to a dental appointment, I observed many people who were either texting or punching in numbers to dial cell phones while they were supposed to be driving. At the dental appointment, I observed a mother of a two year old child sit for 45 minutes with a cell phone that never left her hand nor her eyesight. I have no idea what she was doing but she was operating it nonstop. The dental office was very busy. The child was often in the way of people trying to get to the receptionist desk or out the door. The child was in danger a great deal of the time because he stood in front of the door much of the time. Even more destructive, in my estimation, is that fact that this child needed to be loved and disciplined. This mother absolutely ignored this child except when it was absolutely necessary to allow someone to use the door. She would rise and jerk the child out of the doorway; the child would begin to cry; she would sit down, still punching away at the phone, occasionally saying the child’s name with exasperation and tell him to hush. He did not hush and she gave him no further attention. That process was repeated several times throughout my wait. As I drove home, I observed men on highway projects talking on cell phones rather than working. Granted, they may have been engaged in work related conversation but that would not match my prior experience. The next day as I was involved in our church’s food and clothing ministry, I counseled a woman whose husband is in prison. At the end of our session, I prayed for her. At the close of my prayer, I opened my eyes to find her texting. Later, I visited a local public school classroom. I was there for 10 or 15 minutes. The entire time I was there, a high school girl had a cell phone in her lap under her desk. She was texting. At our mid-week church service, I observed our teenagers with their cell phones lined up in the windows because that is the only place they can get reception. We have tables and chairs, a pool table, a ping-pong table, etc. for them to gather and get to know one another, but they engaged in little face to face activity with others present because of their overwhelming desire to constantly (and I mean constantly) check the cell phones. As I moved about the community during the week, I observed many, many people who simply cannot bring themselves to put their cell phones in their pocket. They remain in their hands at all times. I observed all of these things in the last four days.
I could go on and on with many other examples in the past, but let me leave it at this: It is almost impossible to get served in many places of business because the employees are on personal calls/texting or because other customers are slowing or stopping legitimate business with their addiction to the cell phone. I have seen talented athletes walk away from school athletics because they were not allowed to keep cell phones with them during activities. Cell phone addictions are destroying summer camps. If cell phones are allowed, they take precedence over everything. If they are not allowed, the young people refuse to attend. I have not touched on social media websites but it appears to me that employees wasting time on Facebook, My Space, etc. are destroying productivity. The bullying, sexting, posting of embarrassing photos, loss of productivity, etc. all pale in the light of the children who are starving for attention from a parent who instead gives it to social media. Two years ago, a friend of mine was run over and killed by a young woman who was passing in a no passing zone. Cell phone records indicate that she may have been texting at the time.
I am old enough to remember when mainly women, but also a few men began to get addicted to telephone conversations. Each improvement in technology has brought with it new temptations. Where and when will it all stop? We are paying a terrible price for these addictions. For over a year, I have joked with young people in an effort to get them to think about their use of cell phones by telling them, “We are starting a support group for cell phone addicts. Would you come?” I think it is time to move beyond the joking stage and really start such a group.