I was on the 5th floor of the Dryden building in Chicago. Outside, a group of five friends was walking from one night spot to another. I watched them cross the road and was struck with the reality of their walking. When I was a younger man, I would go out on the town with the boys. We would saunter around the city laughing too loud and looking for adventure. But this crew wasn't' laughing. This crew wasn't even talking. They were all walking hunched over, their faces aglow with the light of smartphones. Five guys together, but apart.
This is not abnormal. I sit in restaurants and watch a table full of people staring down into the internets. I've been in living rooms where everyone was on a laptop checking Facebook. It's an eerie thing to post on social media, only to have the person sitting across from you like it immediately.
Now, I am not writing to merely lament how things have changed. I am not going to be a cranky old man pointing a finger at the next generation. I look in the mirror and notice something that saddens me. I live in that space as well. I don't know how it happened, but Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, news sites, and communication have me checking my phone every 2 minutes. That is crazy. At lunch with a buddy, check the phone. At home early to be with the family, on the laptop. In bed after a long day of running, finally with time to connect with my bride and talk about our days, on the tablet.
I feel it fighting for my attention. It has grown to inhabit an unhealthy place in my life. I think of the words of Paul, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. " I am not saying the new connectedness is evil or bad. But it is not everything. It should not be drunk down without asking the question, "What the crap am I drinking!?" I will not be mastered by anything. So, it is time to delete FB from the phone, time to delete some of the games and news sites. Some of these apps are not for work, they are for play. And I have enough play in my life. I am turning off notification on emails and texts. People can wait a few minutes.... even a few hours... and maybe even overnight. That piece of plastic is not my god, my king, or my lover. It is a tool. And I need to learn to wield it more intentionally. I want to redeem the time. I want to reclaim my mind for thinking and dreaming and doing. Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy. I want to be a real boy in the real world.