This is a guest post by Taylor Buzzard:
Does anybody else get irritated when people constantly have one foot in the real world and one foot in the virtual world? Can we just pick a world and fully be there? Maybe we need to adopt something similar to the taxi availability system—a light atop our heads turns on or off to signal when we are available. If you don’t get bugged by the dual-world-living, I’ll tell you who does: my 6-month-old son. No joke. When I am nursing him and begin silently (absolutely silently) tapping on my iPad screen, he stops eating, gives me a glare, and won’t continue dining until I stop. Busted.
This whole smart phone phenomenon is definitely not up my alley. Wait, stop. Yes, it is entirely up my alley, and that is exactly why I had to make the hard decision not to buy a data plan. If I bought a data plan, I would be a full-on addict and my phone would tenderly beckon me all the day long: “Taylor, come to me, come check, come see what else has been posted, come find something amusing, something must have happened that you don’t yet know about, take a break from tangible life and get swept away in virtual life.” So, that’s why I didn’t get a data plan. And I’m thankful. Because the virtual world is already enough of a temptation as I go about my day and walk past my computer.
Honestly, I don’t want to know how many times a day I check my email. Is there a function similar to internet “history” lists that tracks how frequently we check our inboxes? Wow, that would be an embarrassment. And I would be clearing that history very often to save face.
So, please know, I’m not tooting my horn for not having a data plan. I’m confessing that I’m not mature enough to have a data plan. Because 75% of what I do on the internet accomplishes nothing and is a royal waste of time, albeit an enjoyable waste of time. And the lure of the internet can seriously drain my ability to live in the moment. I already complain about not having time to do things I want to do. So a data plan just doesn’t fit in the picture.
Do you agree that most people think they can surf their smart phones without others knowing? I seriously think most people don’t realize that there is a Universal Smart Phone Posture: shoulders hunched, gaze downward, smart phone burrowed in palm, index finger lightly tapping, eyes in a trance. Oh, I thought you were praying, or tackling some challenging mental math—but you were on Facebook! Who would’ve guessed? It’s pretty comical.
Then there is the awkward reality that people are more bold and open-book on Facebook and Twitter than they are in real life. So you see someone who is merely an acquaintance, but thanks to their News Feed, you just happen to know that they had bad indigestion last night and are headed to Vegas that weekend. Do you pretend like you don’t know these things? Or do you bring them up, but then feel awkward because the person didn’t tell you personally and you sound like a stalker? But wait! They put the info out there in the virtual world, so it’s okay to know, they want you to know. But it still feels weird! Like you’re a spy and tapped their home.
One thing that can throw me off is how people use their smart phones as Bibles in church. I see someone on a smart phone in church and my sinful heart instantly jumps to judge, but then I catch a glance of their screen and … it’s BIBLE!! Gotcha. There has got to be major temptation to glide your finger over the screen and sneak a peek at a social networking site when the sermon is at a lull.
The worst witnessed smart phone offense to date wasn’t by my husband (wink wink) and wasn’t in church. It was at the Frog Pond in Boston. We were there last summer visiting family. The Frog Pond is a one-foot-deep wading pool in the heart of Boston. Children flock there during the hot summer days. We were there with our two young sons. It only takes a couple inches of water for young children to drown. And the lifeguard on duty? She had assumed the Universal Smart Phone Posture! Oh no.
One final thought to close. You know People Magazine? That silly tabloid can really grab my attention. I especially like the “Star Tracks” section where they share photos of celebrities doing normal life. Facebook is People Magazine for nobodies. It’s like “Star Tracks,” but with ordinary people. And the attention we get can make us feel like celebrities. I’m not anti-Facebook, but parts of it are ego-stroking and dangerous, and can make us feel more important than we really are. But, I do appreciate that Facebook gives no room for people to carry on two different personas. That is, unless they have two different Facebook accounts. I never entertained this possibility before! Does this actually happen?
So, to all you social network junkies (me!) and all you smart-phone coddlers, take some time to measure the cost. Might our participation in these fun activities be in moderation and with a full understanding of the cost. Most commonly the cost is missing out on the joy of the moment at hand (a high cost) and missing out on peaceful, quiet moments when the Lord speaks (a very high cost). Might the heightened need for self-control serve to further grow self-control in our lives. And might we all know that EVERYONE can tell when you think they are boring and decide to tiptoe into the virtual world. You aren’t as sneaky as you think.