Whenever we’d sing it we knew Thanksgiving was on its way. It was the standard Thanksgiving hymn from my childhood: “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing. . . ” I suppose most of us will be gathering together tomorrow. But will our “together” really be what it should be? Will it be a gathering “together” or a gathering “alone.”
It was Sherry Turkle who coined the phrase “alone together” and used it as the title for her book on what social media is doing to our families and our communities. More and more, we find ourselves in the physical presence of each other while being mentally and emotionally attentive to and immersed in our screens. The great irony is that smartphone technology facilitates unprecedented connectedness. . . while facilitating unprecedented disconnectedness.
Fast-forward to your Thanksgiving table tomorrow. Will knives, forks, and spoons be the only things in our hands? Will our eyes and ears be focused on the flesh-and-blood family and friends sitting in close proximity, or will we be side-tracked by making sure we don’t miss out on trivial screentime stuff that really doesn’t matter at all?
The emerging generation of digital natives has no idea what its like to live life and spend family holidays without smartphones. Poor kids. Really. Thanksgiving meals were about enjoying a once-a-year feast in close company with family and friends. You were either talking or chewing. And when you engaged in talking while chewing, someone might remind you to mind your manners. . . and stop playing “eat and show.”
In today’s social media saturated world, we feel the need to show and tell the world everything. We document our lives rather than living our lives. And our lived lives that we document are oftentimes staged so that we can portray ourselves, our families, and our kids in a better light than the light that really is. We try to get ahead. We compare. We post everything from our families to our food (a new version of eat and show on social media). And in doing so, we waste our time, our energy, the time of others, and the precious moments that we’ve been given to be together.
Perhaps tomorrow can be shaped by a decision we make today. . . the day before Thanksgiving. . . to shut down the smartphones and social media so that we can truly be together.
What would happen if. . .
. . . we would put the phones aside and focus our attention on those who are in our presence?
. . . we would commit to enjoying our food rather than photographing it and posting it for all the world to see?
. . . we would expend our energy on the flesh-and-blood others in our presence, rather than fabricating, curating, and promoting ourselves and our families on social media?
The reality is that we were made for relationship. And when we eliminate the noise that we have somehow come to believe that we can’t live without, something amazing starts to happen within. We are refreshed and renewed as we fall in line with what God intended for us to experience.
A few years ago, a youth worker asked me why I wasn’t on Twitter. I answered, “If I think that you need to know what I’m doing and thinking every minute of every day, then I’ve got a problem. And if you want to know what I’m doing and thinking every minute of every day, then you’ve got an even bigger problem than I’ve got!” I would still answer that way.
How about it? Will log off at midnight tonight?