When the smart phone bandwagon started chugging along several years ago, I was quick to jump aboard. The technological ride was moving along nicely until I hit a speed bump last week.
The speed bump came in the form of a conversation I shared with some folks I dearly respect and admire. We talked about smart phones (cell phones that are connected to the Internet), interpersonal communication, and family relationships. We talked about change and technology.
The people I spoke with don't own smart phones and have no plans to do so. They live meaningful, productive lives in the community; they have many social outlets.
When these individuals started talking about smart phones, each expressed considerable concern. And underneath the concern, I recognized another emotion, sadness and perhaps a little grief, too. It wasn't so much sadness that forms of communication are changing. It was sadness that perhaps communication is changing in a way that isn't particularly healthy.
Their children and grandchildren are becoming increasingly connected to their cell phones. These folks are worried that their loved ones are disconnecting from the actual people, places, and conversations happening around them.
Usually, I'm the first one to speak up in advocacy for technological advancements. I have no doubt that smart phones, tablets and the Internet have limitless potential to shape our world in meaningful ways. I have witnessed many of the blessings of smart phone technology first-hand.
In the past, when I spoke with those less-interested in smart phones, I figured it was all just part of progress. Old technology becomes obsolete. New technology arises. One generation is displeased while the next is excited.
But I was wrong. This is not really about senior citizens being upset about the behaviors of "kids these days." The issue goes much deeper.
Those of us who see the value in smart phones need to model the responsible, respectful use of new technologies. We need to make sure that as our virtual connectedness increases, our direct, interpersonal relationships grow stronger, too. With or without cell phones, God invites us to be thoughtful, compassionate human beings.
Even though I think smart phones are phenomenal, I actually agree with most of the concerns that were expressed during that Thursday morning conversation. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to use technology.
We need to approach this area of life with intention and open communication. The success to which we embrace the respectful use of technology will deeply affect the patterns of future generations.
We need to talk about this topic with the people we love! Honest conversations rooted in love will effect change. Complaining or avoiding the issue will likely prove ineffective.
If you're upset or saddened about the way people in your life are using their phones, find a genuine, loving way to talk about it. What's upsetting you? Is it that you feel left out? Do you miss spending quality phone-free time with your grandkids? Share with them how much you love time together. Talk about how much it would mean to you if they could put their phones away for a few hours.
Work together to set boundaries and guidelines for smart phone use in your household. Do the same within your workplace and among friends. These conversations will likely become intergenerational, which is a great gift. To the smart phone averse: we need the insights of those who have found this technology to be helpful and positive. To the smart phone fans: we need the perspectives of those who live happy, meaningful lives without instant access to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
None of us sees the full picture on this. We have much to learn from one another about healthy, respectful communication in all its forms.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: www.emilyannecarson.com.