I got my own smart phone this past May and within days understood the compulsion to look at that damn screen every few minutes for the newest email or text, to search random trivia, or to capture that moment in history by snapping, in many cases, pointless pictures.
These gadgets, coupled with the social media craze, have propelled so many of us into this strange world of See Me. See my life–my humor, my friends and family, my success, my uniqueness, my abilities and interests, my joy, my sadness. We spend life-consuming time on our gadgets, posting and tweeting to keep people in the loop of our lives and yet, we are reluctant or unable to be truly present with someone in person. We see each other, but we don’t really know one another.
My daughter’s liturature teacher spoke of the use of gadgets “atrophying our social muscles” whereby degrading our ability to interact with others. I couldn’t agree more. We are robbed of our real-world human connection in an effort to stay “connected” in our social media realms. (See the links below for two wonderful, poetic commentaries on the digital world we now live in. Watch them both!)
A striking example of this digital disconnect manifested in a recent report received by a renowned restaurant in New York City. Concerned about their rise in bad reviews, they hired a firm to analyze why the restaurant’s number of dissatisfied customers was growing.
Thanks to a comparision of survellience footage from 2004 and 2014, it was learned that today’s patrons are obessed with their gadgets. Sadly, diners are not making the connection that their dissatisfaction in the service or their meals is often because of their social media needs: wi-fi has to be figured out and group pictures must be taken—often with the help of the wait staff—prior to food being ordered; multiple photos are snapped of the dishes served, texts replied to and status updates are made long before the food is enjoyed.
A friend in the restaurant business confirmed this battle to adequately serve customers who are more engaged with their phones than with their surrounding environment. He shared that a married couple came into the restaurant to celebrate their anniversary, then proceeded to spend their time absorbed with their individual gadgets. What kept them from interacting with one another instead of their devices?
My Christian faith calls me into relationship.
Yes, this implies a deep connection with the Divine, but I do not exist solely in a religious bubble of my God and me. I am called to See the Other, and more than that, to Love the Other. When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was (there were, after all, over 600 Jewish laws!) Jesus responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).
Like I said, it’s about relationships.
I can’t really say when I first heard the word “kin-dom” used in place of kingdom—as in the kin-dom of God vs. the kingdom of God. What I do know , however, is that I LOVE this image that in God’s realm we are are one family, a beloved community of God’s people.
In the words of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “The word kin-dom makes it clear that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers—kin to each other.”*
But how much more difficult will it be for God’s Kin-dom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, when we can’t manage or make time to truly be with one another? What does God’s reign look like when we insist on making life about US?
To be a person of faith, I must look beyond myself—beyond my social media realm, beyond my gallery of selfies, beyond my recent status updates.
I am called by my God to notice the brokenness and injustice in my world and strive to be a vessel of healing. And yet, if I’m obessessly snapping photos of that amazing banana flambe or if my attention is on my phone’s endless stream of data instead of on the person next to me—I just may miss the opportunity to show God’s love by serving others.
People of faith, PUT DOWN your gadgets! Look up. Serve one another. And live into God’s kin-dom come!
*Page 304, “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel, San Francisco: Harper, 1990).