Here at ACU, we are among the leaders of a mobile initiative.
Students walk around campus with their head down, eyes glued to their phones, with no awareness of where they are going as they narrowly miss getting hit by an oncoming bike or as they trip on one of the many uneven sidewalk ledges.
If it’s not a phone that has captured their attention, it’s an iTouch, blocking all external sounds from penetrating their heads. They stare forward and pass straight by people who are trying unsuccessfully to say hello to them or who are yelling to warn them their backpack is open.
When people find themselves standing awkwardly alone, the default is to pull out their phones and pretend to talk to someone. I’ll admit that I’ve had times when I’ve held up my phone to my ear and talked into to a dead screen to avoid an awkward exchange of words with a stranger nearby. Sad, I know.
In the past, it was common for individuals to be happy talking to and spending time with the people they were with. When phones and other personal devices were introduced into the picture, suddenly people who weren’t present could be present, offering a way for people to check out of their current location and enter into a conversation half a world away.
Now we are responsible for maintaining relationships with those that live next door as well as those that live back home and everywhere else we’ve ever been. It’s a huge network to maintain and, if done faithfully, can be incredibly demanding of time and attention. The reality is, however, that we have a certain responsibility to those we live near, to interact and to have fellowship together.
Often, when I am texting, Facebooking and FaceTiming, I feel like I’m being social. However, I’m disregarding the fact that I am completely ignoring the people who are physically surrounding me. How social am I really being if my face is buried in my phone as life is happening all around me? I’m preventing myself from participating in my own community.
Our generation is farther removed from their reality than ever before, and modern relationships are among the least affected by geographic location.
So, my challenge to our generation is to be engaged in your surroundings. It’s tempting to network with people all across the world through our little handheld portal, but we can’t ignore those who God put us with right now.
Find a balance between nurturing long distance relationships and giving attention to the person beside you, because they are the ones who are sharing life with you. They are here.