Laura and I had a weekend getaway recently where we walked around an idyllic town (“Little” Nashville), perused antique shops and ate in quaint restaurants. As we were trying to “enter in” to those moments of beauty and grace, I was amazed at how many people all around us were missing out. How so? They had their faces buried in their phones.
It seems, that people don’t talk to each other anymore, at least face-to-face. They don’t engage in the moment, because they’re losing themselves in videos of cute kitties and cuddly babies experienced by others (but not by them). The average teenager spends around six hours a day refreshing their social media feeds and the average adult spends about an hour. We are a society that fears missing out (FOMO) on knowing about what others are doing.
Without question, technology has made the simple tasks of life easier. Every time I order a book on Amazon and get next-day shipping, I say a little prayer of gratitude. Every time I use my phone’s GPS, I’m grateful that I don’t have to write down directions in order to find an address. Every time I pay bills by the push of a button instead of writing out multiple checks, I’m grateful for these revolutionary conveniences. And I haven’t even mentioned the improvements of health care, research, and communications.
The truth is, technology has made our tasks easier, but has it made our lives easier? Technology cannot replace genuine relationships, the beauty of a sunset, the joy of new life, or answers to life’s deepest questions such as, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Is this world all there is?”
Os Guinness writes, “The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with and too little to live for” (The Call, 4). In the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty. The longing of the human heart is as vacuous today as it was in the days of Solomon when he wrote, “ Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV).
Believe me, I’m not anti-technology. I’m writing these words on a MacBook Pro! But technology is not our master; Jesus is. Technology can be a means to a greater end of God’s purposes being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven. When technology becomes the end, however, we fall prey to our human inclinations to put self above others and entertainment above relationships, and we anesthetize ourselves against true beauty and joy. Like a drug addict longing for his next fix, we are consumed with our quest for more news, more entertainment, or more pleasure.
Laura is reading a book right now called, How to Break Up with Your Phone. It speaks to our addiction of not wanting to miss anything. So the last thing we check before going to bed is our phone, and it’s the first thing we look at when we get up. In our addiction of not wanting to miss anything, we miss a lot, especially those closest to us.
I challenge you this week to take a “phone fast” for a day or an evening and try spending that time doing something really radical . . . like talking with the person sitting right in front of you. You may just discover JOMO (joy of missing out)!