These days we have lots of discussion regarding social media, virtual interaction and the tangible world. Older folks (40-50+) will criticize the millennial generation for their constant connectedness to “the grid” of Facebook, texting, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and the dozens of other social media platforms. To them these mediums of connecting just doesn’t seem real. We see folks sitting in restaurants together but not talking to each other. They’re staring at their phones. A few years back I heard the term “Screenagers” and it is fairly descriptive of the focus.
I was at a college football game the other night and sitting in front of me was a 20 something girl who amazed me with her speed on the iphone keyboard as she texted throughout the game. She was sitting in a $100+ seat and I wondered if she knew who was playing. She was surrounded by 63,000 people but was not present in the moment. It bothers me because I believe real experiences, tactile moments of connection, one-to-one relationships where conversations have tone, expression and engagement face-to-face – these are essential to being fully human, fully alive. As Joel Hunter, a respected pastor of Northland, a mega-church here in Central Florida would say, “We were made for relationships.”
On the flip side I know for Millennials (people coming of age in the 21st century), they do not see the dichotomy between the real and virtual world. For them it is one world all together, It is the world they grew up in. In the 2016 Beloit College Mindset list of 2016 it gives these descriptors…
They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”
If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
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The information age is overwhelming yet they have adapted and for them it is their world. So I do not want to be too quick to condemn. Millennials have simply adapted as best they can.
Some days I loathe Facebook and the data that streams across my screen. I am suspicious of how much they track my every click and the online user profile that is “Jon Davis.” Other days I am very grateful. I have connected with friends all the way back to 1st grade and have had moments to celebrate with them in triumphs and grieve with them in pain. I have offered prayers, praise, comfort, and have received the same. Yet there is nothing to replace being in the moment with someone. As a priest I have walked into very intense situations, moments of childbirth and jubilation and other moments of death and tragedy.
My point is that the virtual world we enter through the doorway of social media is not bad. It has much to offer. But the virtual world must never suspend or replace the deeper sense of connection, the depth of relationship that only comes through being with someone, talking to them, looking into their eyes, sharing a meal together, laboring side by side with them. So keep Facebooking, Tweeting, Snapchatting but don’t forget to show up and shake a hand, give a hug and be in the room. This is our world. May we all learn to live in it.
Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center as been home to The Oviedo Rotary Club for decades. They meet every Wednesday at 7:30am. This service organization does so much to build the local community and beyond in service projects, scholarships, student exchange programs and more.
The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness
of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and
FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a
world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
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