Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not-So-Social, Social-Media

"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
Colossians 4:5,6

During one of Kevin's recent business trips in which Zach and I had tagged along, I sat across the breakfast table from my dear, hard-working husband.  He works all night long, and he works hard.  I have never seen a harder working man.  His job is nearly all-consuming.  It requires more of him than he would rather give, not just during the 10-12 hours he works every weeknight, but during his every waking hour throughout the day.  He constantly feels the need to stay on top of the hundreds of emails he gets every, single day, and the ever-changing environment of the IT field creates a continual feeling of pressure to keep up and stay current.  While it is extremely stressful, such is his current situation, and no one rises to the occasion more devotedly than him.  As we talked over our plates of scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit, my eyes drifted from his tired face to the high-end hotel dining room scenario around us.  I sat there for I don't know how long observing people, as I slowly sipped from a steaming mug of freshly-brewed decaf coffee, honey, and cream.  I tried, completely unsuccessfully, to connect with someone...anyone.  I so wanted to strike up a conversation with the lady who seated herself at the table closest to exchange smiles with the guy seated across the table from his female, business-clad delve beyond obligatory small talk with the server, so attentive to our needs.  There was one point, I thought for sure an opening for conversation had presented itself when a man seated not far from us accidentally let go of his fork, and it went flailing through the air, landing with a clang near to the spot where Kevin was seated across from me.
No such luck.
The woman seated across from the man got up from her seat, walked toward us, bent over, and retrieved the unintentionally-hurled fork, without so much as the slightest glace in our direction.

One thing about it.  I am my Dad's daughter.  Dad never, ever, ever met a stranger.  He loved to talk to people.  He loved people...period.  He could strike up a conversation with nearly anyone.  I find myself with that same deep-embedded need.  I like being friendly, and I love getting to know new people.  There is just something special to me about connecting with another human being and knowing that we are all a component of the same grand design, crafted by a loving Creator, who wants us all to be a part of each other's lives.

After several minutes of seeing that there wasn't a soul in that busy dining room who cared to smile or chat, I looked at my dear, exhausted husband who had just worked all night and was finishing up the last bites on his plate before heading upstairs to sleep, and I said, "Look over to your right...against the wall."  On the side of the dining room tables was a long wall lined with a wall-facing counter and stools.  In front of each stool, there was a TV.  Each person seated at the counter was eating side by side, together, but completely alone.  There was no conversation.  No interaction.  No socialization.  Just solitary eating while caught up in their own, little, private world, incessantly tapping  and scrolling on their phones.  Kevin and I sat there and talked about how sad this "anti-social" our world has become.  How is this?  Isn't this the age of "social media"?  Aren't communication possibilities and potentialities at an all-time high?

I'll be honest.  I have never seen such an unfriendly environment.  People don't talk to each other anymore.  As we take our daily walks at home, I often comment how much I long to connect with others.  I try my utmost to lock eyes with another human being, but, way too often, I find it near-impossible.  Even while walking, they look down, eyes fixed on little, electronic, hand held devices.  I find that they seem to prefer to tap words to someone not present, than to speak with someone who is.  That they would rather ignore the one standing in front of them and retreat into a place of oblivion and solitude.  I find that the younger generation, for the most part, does not know how to hold a live conversation.  Believe me, I have tried.  I get so frustrated, as I speak to a teenager, only to receive no response.  None.  Not a word...not a reaction.  It is as if I haven't spoken a word to them or they haven't heard me.  They don't talk.  They don't even seem to try to be friendly.  They are entirely absorbed in what feels like another universe.  I'll try to give them the benefit of the doubt by thinking maybe it is not their intention, but their refusal to live in the reality of what is live and touchable and audible around them makes them come across as very rude.

This is a different world from my growing up years.  If someone spoke to me, I spoke back, or I knew there would be repercussions later.  Mom and Dad taught me to love be never ignore anyone.  Ever.  It didn't matter who it was.  To speak when spoken to.  To speak in a sweet tone.  Retorts weren't allowed.  Eye rolls were forbidden.  The first signs of rebellion were quickly corrected before they grew into bigger ones.  I did not get by with being unfriendly.  And, I am GLAD I didn't.  I am thankful for Mom and Dad and for the way they instilled common sense and good old-fashioned gumption into the fabric of who I am.

Whatever happened to common courtesy?  Have we all become so "social media" driven that we no longer know how to be social?  Again, at the risk of ruffling feathers and offending those of a different mindset, I'll be honest.  I hate am not the biggest fan of social media.  Oh, I know the arguments.  I know it boosts blog pageviews, and it connects people in ways that nothing else ever has.  I get it.  I am not totally naive.  I also know it has great potential to encourage and to uplift and edify.  But, more often than not, I hear of how it does just the opposite, and regardless how much good it is capable of bringing about, I hate can't bring myself to like it just the same.  Because I hate what it has done to us, as humans.  How it is robbing us of our ability to interact when we come face to face.  How it is distracting us from real life.  How it constantly pulls us from what is in front of us.  How we are obsessed by it.  How we can't pass by our phones without stopping to see if we got a text or a facebook like or a tweet.  How we are utterly drunk on gossip and knowing everyone else's online business.  How we are addicted to the competition and highs of having the most "friends" or "followers".  I just hate seeing what it has done to us.

Whatever happened to kids being kids?  To toddlers sitting in the floor playing with blocks?  To girls jumping rope and boys reading Hardy Boys and teenagers playing board games?  To families sitting around the dinner table actually looking each other in the eye and talking about their day?  To parents listening to their children talk without holding a smart phone in their hand, grazing for their latest post "share" or the most recent scoop of other people's goings on?
Since when did keeping up with everyone else trump giving our children the gift of undivided attention?

I miss the old, pre-cellphone distraction days.  I just do.  I miss talking to strangers and watching how God turns them into new friends.  I avoid cellphones.  I still have one, old trusty Tracfone, that I carry in my purse, in case of an emergency.  Kevin has a nice smart phone that his work provides for him for business, and he pays a small fee so that all 3 of us can use it for personal purposes, too.  I doubt we get our money's worth, even though it is minimal.  We use it to text a loved one, now and then, when a phone call is not convenient, we use it for directions when driving, and, in moderation, we allow Zach to play games on it.  Call me an old fogey or fuddy-duddy, but we have never allowed him to own a cellphone.  And, do you know what?  He doesn't want one.  He lives in the moment because this is how we do life in our home.  I don't ever want him to miss out on life.  He has never even asked for a phone, and he is completely content without one.  May he ever feel this way, because it is very important to me that he seizes every moment God gives.  That he looks people in the eye.  That he responds when spoken to, and that he responds in kindness, respect, and true concern for the feelings of the human being who is taking the time and effort to speak to him.  That he feels and experiences the gift of life, firsthand, not through reading about it on social media.

I hate the robotic way of life that has come to be accepted as normal.  I don't know how it could ever change, at this point, but I'll tell you one thing.  I refuse to be a part of it.  I will not permit myself to live like an unfeeling robot, never speaking to anyone around me, never smiling, never trying to connect.  During our walks, after seeing me ignored as if I am invisible for the umpteenth time, Zach sometimes comments, "Mama, I don't know why you keep trying to do that.  I don't know why you have to keep saying hello and smiling, when they won't even look at you."  Call me a goofball, or the last one to lose hope.  Or maybe I am a glutton for punishment...that could be it.  Or perhaps I am just silly and old-fashioned to think that being nice still matters.  Regardless, I will keep trying to be social...face-to-face social, not filtered through "media".

I blog because I want to share what God places on my heart and provide a willing vessel for Him to use.  I like Pinterest because it is just plain fun to me.  For the most part, it isn't a platform to bash other people or say mean and disparaging things.  It isn't a gossip-mill, and even though I suppose you could argue that it can be self-promoting, I just love seeing new ideas and finding inspiration that will help me be a better wife, mother, homemaker, homeschool Mom, and Christian.  Pinterest is a "luxury" I allow myself to indulge in, but only occasionally, and only, in moderation.  I am not obsessed with it, and even though you are more than welcome to "follow" me, I won't feel a bit differently towards you if you choose not to.  I love getting emails, because it is sort of like receiving an old-fashioned letter in the mail, which I still love, by the way, and it keeps me in touch with so many friends and loved ones.  But, I refuse to allow this blog, Pinterest, or email to keep me from living life in "real time".

Life is a gift.  Oh, my, is it ever a gift!  It is to be lived and breathed and the full.  Having lost both parents and many other loved ones through the years, I have come face to face with the starkness of my own mortality.  I am not going to be here forever.  Even though I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when I leave this world, I am going to a better place to live with my dear, precious Lord for eternity, still, knowing that I will not always be on this earth to make a positive difference makes me sad.  However much time I have left, be it long or short, and I do hope with all my heart it is long, I want to make the most of every, single second.  I don't want to waste the time God entrusts to me.  I love the quote by Etienne de Grellet, a Quaker missionary, "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

As I pass people on the street or in hotels or in restaurants or wherever, I want to make their day better just because we crossed paths. I want to leave them happier, if at all possible. I want to impart kindness into their day, regardless how hatefully I may be treated in return. I want to smile and leave a drop of joy with them, no matter how weird they think I am. One of the amazing, unexpected joys of getting older is this...I really don't care how they look at me or how I am perceived. Because it has become very evident to me that one day I will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, and I will give an account of the deeds done in this body. My record will be there for His all-seeing eyes to behold, and I want Him to say, "Well done, my child. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." I want Him to see that I have been a good and faithful steward and been completely present and ever in the the precious marriage He has blessed me to be a part of, in the life of the precious child He has given Kevin and me to raise and nurture and bring up in His admonition, in the time He has given me on this earth. I don't want to blow this. It is the utmost desire of my heart to be faithful to the One who created me and who so graciously grants me life and breath.

Okay, so now that you have patiently tolerated and read to the very end of my "anti-social media" rant, may I present to you a challenge?  Whether you share my position on refraining from social media or if you are its biggest fan, I challenge you to live life in the now.  Be present.  Be aware of the intersections and Divinely-orchestrated interventions in your day.  Know that God places us in each situation to make a difference...for the better.  Take the time to really look at people...especially your family and loved ones...especially the ones who live under the same roof with you.  They are the most important people in your life.  They matter.  Remember this...just like your place will one day be vacant on this earth, so will theirs.  Who knows who will go first?  They deserve your respect, your genuine love, and, yes, your truly undivided attention.  Drop the cellphone for a day and make it a point to have a heart-to-heart talk with your child.  Really, truly listen to what is weighing on their mind.  They will forever thank you.  Take a fast from Facebook and stare at your spouse's face instead.  Intentionally look into their eyes until you uncover what is really going on with them.  Your marriage is worth it.  Give yourself a break from tweeting, step outside, and listen to the tweeting of birds.  Give Instagram a breather, so you can breathe and take in the moments happening in front of you, instead of feeling compelled to photograph every, single one of them to share online.

Live in the abundance that Jesus came to give.
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
John 10:10
"The thief" comes in a plethora of new channels and ways and inventions in this generation.
Think about it.
What is stealing your time away from what, and more importantly, who, matters most?
What is killing the joy of interaction with your loved ones?
What is destroying the relationships that are most dear to your heart and life?
What and who are you socially neglecting due to continually feeding off and into social media?
There is no "auto-correct" in real life.
It is going to take an intentional, determined effort to make adjustments and align our priorities and direct our attention to where it most needs to be.
Be all in...wherever you are today.
Those who matter most are worth whatever it takes.

I love and appreciate each one of you dear readers and hope you are enjoying this beautiful CHRISTMAS season!!
Speaking of CHRISTMAS,
would you like to see the American Family Association's "Naughty or Nice List" of retailers for 2016?
Click HERE to see which retailers do and do not promote and celebrate Christmas.
I hope you choose to patronize the ones who do!