I don’t drive in the snow.
After two accidents (neither of which were my fault), I drew the line. I don’t drive in the snow. I either have Josh drive me, or I get a ride from a friend. So, last night, Josh picked me up from work, and we headed home on the slushy roads.
Josh had been listening to the sermon station, and since I usually dictate where the radio stays and goes, I decided it was only fair to let Josh have a turn. The speaker was discussing with another person the changes that our society has seen in social interactions in the last several decades. He lamented the fact that we don’t interact with one another anymore; it is very uncommon for a person to grow up and live their entire lives in one community, with their lives intertwined with others in their neighborhood. We spend so much time in front of screens, that we forget to interact with those around us. Millenials have lost the ability to make meaningful social connections and to gauge appropriate social reactions.
Truthfully, I’m kind of tired of hearing this.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard similar opinions, and the scapegoat is always the same: technology. I don’t think that Millenials don’t know how to do community because we carry the internet around in our pockets-I think we just do it differently.
Once, I was perusing the shelves of the library, and I just couldn’t find anything that looked good. So, I took out my phone, and texted a friend who shares a similar taste in books, and lives several states away. She recommended several books, and as I checked out one of her recommendations, we continued chatting via text.
Last May, when Josh and I were in Uganda on the World Race, we had the blessing of staying at the office of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, and we were able to use their internet anytime. One night, I saw that my Mom was on Facebook, and I sent her a message, asking if she wanted to Skype. We spent the next hour catching up. I showed her KCM’s pet monkey, told her about our ministry, and even made her laugh as I clutched my precious can of Dr. Pepper (the first I had seen in several months and several continents).
A few years ago, a group of fans of Ryan Kelly, a singer in the group Celtic Thunder, decided to make a Facebook group as a prayer group for his recovery after an accident. Over the course of time, these fans have built a community founded on prayer, their love of Celtic Thunder, and even deep friendships. A former coworker of mine is a member of this online community, and during our World Race, she would share our prayer requests and blog updates with the community. They were such an encouragement to Josh and I, and I am thankful for their support.
Instead of shutting out community with our iPhones and Facebook, we have found a way to stretch the reaches of our communal impact. I can talk to friends in the Philippines in an instant, send an encouraging message to a hurting friend who is States away, write a blog that will be read by and impactful for thousands of people. News stories about shooters on the loose can go viral in a community, and as a result the shooter is apprehended and no one hurt.
I would argue that because traditional community is not as easily experienced among our generation, we work harder for it. Lingo such as coffee dates, house church, and community groups has become common among many Millenials. The emergence of countless intentional communities and other shared housing arrangements all over the country also speaks to our desire for deep social connections.
However, I definitely think that our generation can often forget to reach for those meaningful social connections, whether in real life or through the internet, which can leave us feeling empty and lonely. I have often found myself laying in bed, zoning out while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. While that is not exactly healthy in the area of community, sometimes I need that vegging-out time, and I am not going to beat myself up for that.
Over the last couple of years, I have learned a lot about the way I function, how I process information, and how I contribute to community as a whole. One of the things that I have come to understand about myself is that while I am a high extrovert, I do need a tiny, itty-bitty, little bit of alone time. Sometimes, I do find myself alone at home, but that rarely happens when you share a house with your husband, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. When that doesn’t happen, sometimes my “alone time” means surfing the internet, while tuning out Jess and Henry playing in the next room. And if that means that I will be recharged and ready to go for other social interactions, then that’s okay.
So, let’s stop regretting that things are not the way they used to be, because, as my brother-in-law Tyler said earlier, “Like it or not, technology is here to stay.” Instead, let’s recognize that the world is not black and white; technology has not stolen our ability to socialize properly. The world is full of an amazing array of colors and possibilities. Let’s seize the tools that we have available to us, whether that be an iPad or lunch with a friend, and do the best that we can to be Light and Life to the world around us.