Morning Coffee: The Great Disconnect

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Last weekend was the Polk County Fair. I love the fair and look forward to going every year. Just two doors down, it’s easy to buy an all-weekend pass and come and go as we please. Sunday afternoon we were sitting in the bleachers watching an exciting demolition derby and I was struck by the behavior of the young people sitting around me. Every one of them had a cell phone in their hand. They were hunched over the screen, not paying any attention to the sixteen cars racing around and slamming into one another. They were sliding from screen to screen and tapping away on their little keyboards. The only two speaking to each other were the girl and boy behind us and they were arguing over whether or not she should give him her password. He claimed he gave her his, which she denied, and so on. At least the adults were ignoring theirs for a change.

We are a society addicted to our cell phones, and while we are staring at those little screens the world is passing us by. Text messages and instant link-ups to our social media accounts are the Siren call of the modern age. We can’t seem to look away. It’s impossible to ignore. I admit that even I am compelled to look as soon as I hear the ding that announces a new text or email. At least accessing my social media on my older model phone is too difficult to bother.

I fear the most for our children. They are basing their entire social existence on what their cell phones can do for them. They fill their phones with selfies in various stages of dress and, unfortunately, undress. Then they rapidly share them with others without a second thought as to what happens to those pictures next. I’ve seen them text with a friend sitting right next to them. Their social media accounts are filled with the banality indicative of too much time and not enough to do.

All this electronic socializing is depriving our young people of the necessary skills on how to interact with others. They can’t bear to be alone, yet they don’t know how to be together. They seek contact through emojis, memes, and multi-player video games, creating fake identities to play against “friends” with fake identities. There’s an emoji to express every possible emotion, a little picture for every occasion, for every thought, and even some that don’t seem to mean anything at all. I’ve received texts containing no words, just a string of emojis. Cute but what it means I can only guess. I fear they’re forgetting how to communicate with words and full sentences.

We have to step up and be the adults. We can’t take away their cell phones entirely. Cell phones are, and will continue to be, a part of our lives. But we can set an example. No more phones at the dinner table or family functions. Unless you’re a doctor or on an organ transplant waiting list whatever message is received during dinner can wait until after dinner. It will still be there. No more cell phones in bed. A friend who calls or texts in the middle of the night is no friend. Personally, I turn off my notification sounds and lay my phone upside down at night so the noise and lit screen don’t wake me. I do keep the ringer on, though, since we don’t have a landline. I know any middle of the night call will be for an emergency.

And don’t even think of checking it during the Sunday sermon. Enough said!

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