Thursday, May 14, 2009

Please, whatever you do, DONT throw me in the Briar Patch

Hi Everybody! I am writing this from inside my storm shelter. I know it probably will stir up a lot of feelings and very possibly some disagreement, but that's okay. Just the same I came in here in case the rotten eggs, tomatoes and other objects began to fly my direction. Also, the writer's group that I am with encourages us to write fifteen hundred words daily and so I am trying to do that some. This has not been proofed at all, just straight from the heart. P.S. I did NOT make it to fifteen hundred for those who are interested....only 1,209 words. Oh well, maybe these will count for something. I love you guys!

Writing fifteen hundred words a day is a hard thing to do on the surface. However, when one considers how much time is wasted on Facebook, Myspace or some other social network, then the time it takes to write these words is really not that much. I will be the first to admit that the internet is an amazing tool. You can find almost anybody, anytime. If you are willing to pay the price, you can almost find out the sizes of underwear they have used for the last fifteen years!
What is more important, though? Are we as a nation willing to sacrifice the edifying and growth of the mind on the altar of technology. We are little puppets that are drawn to the screen to receive our daily dose of perceived self-worth from the pile of messages that come from people we are barely acquainted with or do not know at all. We search desperately for someone to love us as we roll through the pages of this vast online world.
I have made several observations while engaging more time than I care to admit in perusing online activity. The first is, those people (whom I personally know) that are spending hours and hours glued to their computer have mostly sad, lonely lives. I think I know why now. Before social networks such as Facebook took our world by storm, there was only the "boob tube" to watch. Many of these same people, I know for a fact, used to spend countless hours watching one video after another. Then they would turn on the computer and read all the news and gossip they could find. Through all of this, is anyone following with me the common thread which holds this woeful tale together?
Here are people who are looking at and talking to faces on a screen. They do not hear their voice, see their expressions, share the same room while they converse. I could be screaming and crying right now while I write this very logical sounding claptrap against techno addiction, but you would not see it. There are neighbors, old friends, family and just people that are close by with whom I could be building good, wholesome relationships with. But, as long as I sit here in front of this screen, anxiously awaiting a pop-up chat screen from one of my equally techno addict friends, I am losing out on this privilege. The old cliche no longer holds true: "No man is an island unto himself." More and more, we put on peppy screen names, write bouncy little notes and no one knows or really wants to hear the genuine pain we might be experiencing. We get online hoping someone will make us laugh, hoping someone will affirm our flagging ego, hoping to attain something that only direct, personal time spent with other human beings will accomplish.
We are sadly spiraling down into an abyss of loneliness. Maybe we need to wake up and realize that a "friend at hand is worth five on-line." Computers cannot hold you close in a warm embrace of friendship and care when the chips are down and your luck is up. Facebook cannot offer a tissue and cry with you when your heart is broken by someone or something that has come into your life. Technology does not have a soft hand to hold when you feel afraid in the darkness of a stormy night.
Recently, some friends of mine received a totally unexpected blow. By the choice of a few, sadly misguided people, they no longer had a job, a home, insurance or direction of where to go or what to do. I sent messages on Facebook, my husband talked on the cell phone while strolling through Walmart. We tried to offer care and concern through the means of technology. By the next night, I was fed up. Since we lived relatively close by, we made a trip to their home and sat with them. I hugged my friend, my husband offered sympathy, counsel and a listening ear as we grieved with them in their sudden displacement. It was hard. I could not offer little sweet cliches to them. I could not quote some author. I had to look into their eyes. I had to see their pain. I squirmed with discomfort at their agony and uncertainty. But, I was there. It made a world of difference for me. It made their pain become real to me. It was worth every bit of the embarrassed, timid feelings which I overcame as I ministered to their time of hurt. Their hurt isn’t over yet. It is ongoing. Yet, they will not forget that night that we were there holding their hands, praying with them, encouraging them, and brain-storming with them for a reasonable solution and conclusion to their trouble. We did not fix one thing, but long after the instant messages and emails have been deleted, the cell phone waves have floated away, the memory of a true friend, I hope, will remain in their hearts.
I told this story to illustrate the point I am making in regard to our over-"technologised" (no it isn't a word) lifestyle. We must learn to have balance in all things. People who eat only celery will eventually die. Why? Because they are burning one-half a calorie for every bite they eat. If you burn constantly and never put anything back in, eventually you will burn out. It is the same in relationships. Those who only watch black letters dancing across a white screen and never experience the sight, sound, (dare I say) smell, and touch of other human beings will wither up and emotionally die.
People, in a world population of almost seven billion human beings, we absolutely need each other. We cannot walk through this world alone. We were created for relationships. Next time you find yourself on that crowded elevator, look someone in the eye and smile. If you are standing next to someone at the meat counter, rather than hang your head and burrow through the meat packages trying to beat them to the best deal, strike up a conversation. I have only met two people in my entire life who gave me a cold stare and walked away. People love to feel that their opinion is important. People are starved for friendship and someone to listen to the sound of their voice. That sounds conceited, but it is the basic need in the human psyche. God instilled this into mankind because He knows we aren’t going to make it through this world and get out of it alive. But, that doesn’t mean that we cannot experience joy in the journey. We can know the reality of many satisfying, friendly relationships as we walk through life. And, yes, my techy friends out there, I believe there is room for communication via social networks to connect with old friends. Just don’t let it totally replace the opportunities for relationships that might otherwise pass you by because you spent all of your time connecting online. As sweetly as I know how to say it, Get a life! Live it to the fullest. Keep your heart in line with Jesus and you will never walk alone.


Joy said...

Jennifer these were well penned words that we all need to hear. I definitely enjoyed reading them.

I totally understand and agree with what you are saying here. I work from home, I'm a freelance writer, and a lot of my work takes place on the computer. I have to admit that it often drives me crazy. I want to get outside and away from that thing. lol

Yes, the computer is amazing. It's wonderful to connect with old friends, and it's definitely beneficial for those of us who are work at home moms!

Of course the big problem comes when you become nothing more than a robot typing text that means nothing. A person I greatly admire once said this - "Take some time to love someone!"

Nancy said...

So true, Jennifer! All the *hugs*, *smiles*, ":)", and other forms of "smiley faces" on line can never replace one light in the eye and smile on the lips, one genuine hug with real arms of a friend or family member who really cares about you. Thanks!

kathy said...

This is such a good, sensible and much needed article. It is well written and any of us who use some of the new means of communication are well aware that you speak the truth. Oh, we say we are connecting, but certainly not in an intimate way.
Much is just wasted time, while some of the posts may be helpful. Yes we are busy people, but are we too busy for those who need the encouragement of others. It is sort of like the thought, "be warm and be filled," yet we do little to lift another person. A note can be read in a minute or less, but a visit or a call will last a long time. Too many of us are not in it for the "long-haul" with those that hurt. If we could "fix" them in an afternoon, yes, we would do that, but some need a continuing period of love and encouragement. That takes energy we are reluctant to expend. The Lord bless your insight.
Kathleen Churchill

Christy said...

I could NOT agree with you more. I have gone through many rough times and have gotten Emails, IM's, Cell Phone calls, Texts and even an envelope with 100 dollars in it. I appreciate ALL of it, but what I find most comforting is when someone is willing to give up an hour or so of their time to spend with me and share my burdens in a way that technology cannot. There is NO comparison with a real flesh in blood person when you need them. None of the techno gadgets can EVER replace people.

Christa said...

I posted on Facebook about it--does that count? :)

Eunice said...

That is amazing and so needed. I would much sooner have a hug than an email. How much we all need each other. You are a very good writer.