You’ve probably been in a restaurant lately, and seen two people sitting across from one another, busy responding to text messages or working on IPads in front of them. I thought restaurants are where you go to eat and socialize!
Do the Internet and all the personal devices make us feel more connected to each other? It would seem so, except studies show that we are actually disconnecting from important relationships – parent/child, husband/wife, friend to friend. And I think we know we are letting this happen.
But times are rapidly morphing into a new age and spawning this significant cultural phenomenon. Recently, China became the first country to label Internet addiction a clinical disorder, which it considers a leading threat to the health of its young people.
Not that I am immune to the mesmerism myself. I often have to check my tendency to respond to each ‘ping’. I appreciate having links at my fingertips, but I also make a conscious, loving effort to relate directly to family and friends. It brings a greater value – deeper satisfaction – to the relationship.
Social media and technology, in general, provide avenues of connection between people and engagement with ideas. But when the need to check our smartphones or surf the Internet becomes almost hypnotic and mesmerizing, it can impact our health and behaviour – from relationships, to school/work attendance, to sleep.
Family institutes and study groups are working to help people learn to take control of the need to be constantly digitally connected. Here are some tips they offer to limit screen time:
• set a reasonable goal to reduce daily screen time, say from five hours to three hours;
• take up a hobby that does not involve a screen;
• instead of texting, make a phone call
• spend time with friends and family, free from all phones/handhelds
In his TED talk on addiction, author Johann Hari makes the point that our addiction to a screen doesn’t actually connect us but rather makes us a lonely society. His research indicates that we need to deepen our connection to each other and not be isolated. Interacting with (real) people, he suggests, we learn emotional and social intelligence, traits that are needed to be successful in life.
He concludes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection. Being present in life with people who care for you – good relationships – creates a happy and healthy life, he says.
Feeling disconnected and unfulfilled can underlie any addiction – we feel we are missing something, that we are not quite complete. We can be mesmerized into thinking we will find that connection and satisfaction whether through Internet friends and gaming, or drinking at a party to fit in.
If feeling connected – having good relationships – gives us a freedom from addiction, the connection we can all make to find completeness is the ‘kingdom within’. This is what Jesus promised in the Bible: ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ You don’t have to look elsewhere. (Luke 17:21)
Connecting to a divine sense of Love [God] and His completeness takes away the instabilities inherent in a human sense of love and connection. Benefits flow from this connection, such as:
• no need for any person to be the source of our satisfaction;
• no need for any substance – legal or illegal – to create fulfillment in our lives;
• empowerment to feel balanced and free
The mesmeric tug towards a screen or the pull of any other type of addiction tries to isolate us from more important connections. But Jesus’ many healings show us that each and every individual has a fulfilling relationship to a loving Creator. And this constant connection can fill any sense of disconnection or dissatisfaction.