When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a tiny dorm room three hundred miles from home. My mom and I had a standing telephone date every Saturday morning at ten. This was in the Jurassic period, prior to unlimited talk and text plans, when phone companies had the audacity to charge thirty-five cents a minute for long-distance conversations.
Mom and I budgeted an hour a week. Those calls were a salve for my homesickness. I treasured them.
Of course, today’s college students can update their mommas on Snapchat every thirty seconds if they want to. If only I’d had FaceTime in my college days, maybe then my mother could’ve talked me out of that spiral perm my sophomore year.
Technology is a beautiful thing when we’re separated from the people we love. But when we’re in the same room together, quite the opposite is true. Technology can become the very thing that separates us.
How many times have you been to a restaurant and witnessed a family seated around a table, each of them thumbing their own mobile device and paying no attention to one another?
How many of you are that family?
Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone when their pocket started ringing, and they pulled out their phone and answered it, midsentence?
Or how often have you heard about a dear friend’s engagement, her pregnancy, or a death in her family through Facebook and not directly from her lips? Or at least in a private message, for heaven’s sake.
It’s an epidemic. We’ve become absent from one another’s presence —even when we’re face-to-face.
My mentor Judy and I make a point of scheduling quarterly coffee dates. As the women’s ministry director of our large evangelical church, Judy is an extremely busy woman. She stays current on the latest high-tech communication, and she can speed-text with the best. Yet she still values old-school visits with the people in her life. I’m blessed to be one of them.
“With today’s technology, distractions, and busyness, presence is even more of a gift,” she told me. “A real, live person is more of a hot commodity than in the past.”
Think about that. One hundred years ago, there was no television, no iPhones, no apps. People sat on porches and talked to each other. They wrote letters in full sentences, in which they actually expressed their feelings in words because emojis hadn’t been invented yet. Can you imagine? How did anybody know when their friends were happy or sad or laughing till they cried?
Oh. They saw it in person.
They heard it in real life.
They experienced one another on an authentic plane of physical existence.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve already established that technology is not bad in itself, especially when you’re miles apart. Technology is good! It’s great! Go send your college student a text right now letting him know you love him!
And yet, if we’re not careful, technology can and does create distractions that dilute our presence and steal opportunities to bless others. And that’s a problem—because it belies the very nature of our identity.
“In every generation, since Adam and Eve, people were created to be relational beings,” Judy said. “God himself is the Trinity: Father, Spirit, Son. He is in relationship with himself. And we reflect Him. We were created that way. We need to honor God with our interactions.”
So call a friend today. Let her hear your voice. Schedule a lunch date with someone you love, go for a walk together, meet at the playground with your strollers and snacks, whatever works. I know we can’t necessarily do this every day with everyone. But from time to time, face-to-face connection with the people God gave us is still valuable. It’s still relevant. It’s still and always will be God’s design for us as humans.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT)
This post first appeared on TheCourage. It contains an excerpt from my new book, Generous Love: Discover the Joy of Living “Others First” by Baker Publishing / Bethany House.