Through the Lens
It’s a common trend today to see people everywhere – walking, dining, driving, out and about in many kinds of social settings – on their cell phones – talking, texting, reading email. We see it all the time. If we are honest, we have to admit that we have been guilty at times too. Guilty of interrupting other conversations and interactions to answer a call or return a message or play a game of “Words with Friends”. Just ask our wives!
As great as social media can be – for information, for the connectedness that it can often bring, for communications that are quicker and more efficient – like everything that can be good, it can also bring its own set of consequences. For all the connectedness that all these devices can bring, they also actually cause greater disconnection from one another and distraction from so many of the moments that are at hand.
I (Michael) was at an amusement park with my wife and youngest son last weekend and observed how dozens and dozens of people there were on their phones. They weren’t talking with the friends or family members whom they were actually with, but were interacting with someone else instead. Whole groups of people walking together had most memebers of the group on their individual phones, no one talking with those who came to the park with them. They got on rides and continued talking, their minds everywhere else but where they actually were that day.
One of my (Tom’s) wife’s pet peeves is when I walk through the door at home after a long day away, talking on the cell phone when she or my kids are trying to have my attention. The nature of our jobs as counselors, with so many people in need reaching out to us, pulls us in many directions at once. I am trying to become more disciplined during meal and family times and days off, to stay off the phone and the internet as much as I possibly can.
We’ve all been at birthday parties or weddings or our kids sporting events or band concerts or recitals or milestone ceremonies at which proud parents are crowded around the edges of the room or field or dinner table, cameras or recorders in hand, viewing the event through a lens. Rather than experience the joy of the party, the emotion of the ceremony or the excitement of the game, they are too often not present mentally, emotionally and spiritually where they are. They miss out on the immediacy of the occasion and actually distance themselves from everything special that is taking place.
How many of us know families or family members who spend their entire vacations with their cameras to their faces, recording all the sights and sounds of the trip? How many of them actually see the mountains or view the monuments with their own eyes? How many of them only see things through the lens? We know of one man who spent his entire vacation diligently taking photos of every place his family went, But on the last day of vacation his camera broke and all the pictures and videos were irretrievably lost. Sadly, he had wasted his entire trip, being distracted from the moment at hand, chosing instead to view everything later. But he never got to “later” because the moments and ultimately the memories were gone. He never really lived them or got to enjoy them in the first place.
That is sad.
We all need to ask ourselves – “Are we enjoying the moments, the all too fleeting moments, that we may never have again? And are we sending signals to those around us that we truly are presnet and truly do care and truly are grateful to be with them and to share with them? By constantly answering the phone, responding to texts, playing games or taking photos – instead of experiencing the occasion or event itself – we are too often missing out on life’s best moments and we are actually saying to those around us that something or someone else is more important that they are at that moment.