I’m the only one looking around, seeing trees swaying in the wind, and the play of shadows over rough bark; the way the light streams through twisting leaves. Even the children, even the littlest ones, their faces still and passive, their squirming ceased, their eyes riveted by the dancing little screens, they miss the squirrel racing around the trunk and chattering.
Their parents stare hard and scroll, scroll, scroll, their thumbs stroking the glass of their miniature portals into otherness; other peoples’ beach photos, rapid-fire recipe videos, artful platings of food, and memes unending. Now and then they’ll look up, around, at their child, and then, as though there were an invisible elastic from their neck to their wrist, they bend to it, raising their phone-clutching hand, and they leave again.
Grocery lines, stoplights, carpool pick-up lanes, waiting rooms, restaurants; they are no longer experienced anymore…they are only escape spaces to distraction, to otherness.
I love elderly people. You still see their eyes; their eyes greet you, see you; there is a sense that they’d gladly connect and share life for a moment. They remember the times before people carried all-engulfing entertainment in their pockets and used them at every opportunity. They remember courtesy, conversation, presence.
I am alarmed.
Ever-reaching for phones, ever-scrolling, compulsive behavior that is becoming “normal”. I’ve experienced it myself. I don’t have a phone, and hopefully never will, but my husband’s smart phone is terribly tempting to reach for on the long drive to church. I don’t even know what compels me to “check it”; what on earth am I longing for; why not let the passing landscape form my thoughts, rather than absorbing the experiences of others?
In my home my laptop is a severe temptation; always promising a moment’s escape from domestic cares and hollering toddlers. But again, I have to ask, what am I longing for? Do I ever feel any sort of fulfillment from “checking in” and “catching up”? No. Rather I feel the weight of wasted time and attention. My childrens’ behavior also changes when I tune out; they are more irritable and uncharitable with each other. They ignore my words, sensing that I’m not really “there” anyways. Presence is necessary. Not just at home but out and about in the world.
I will endeavor to change; to allot a time for online reading and interaction, writing, answering of emails, and ordering supplies for my business. Lord, help me! I don’t want to be absorbed by a screen, nor feel myself pulled towards it. I am mindful of the little eyes that watch how I live; do I need a screen or use a screen?
Please, dear ones, consider. Leave the phone in your car, don’t let your kids play with one whenever they’re bored or fidgety (it’ll prevent them from growing in imagination and creativity and being present), and don’t teach them that zombie-like staring at screens is how to live.