by Elise Seyfried
“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”——-Alice Kahn
Working from home today, writing this on our shared home computer. The laptop is in for repairs, because — I’ll try not to get too technical on you here — when you plug the thingy in, it (the laptop) doesn’t think you did, and the battery runs down. Or something like that. Toshiba will just have to figure it out.
And having no laptop for two whole weeks is driving me insane!! It’s almost as bad as getting halfway to the supermarket and realizing I left my cell phone at home! What will happen if I can’t call the kids in Aisle 9 to see if we need bread? I don’t think I want to find out.
We are not a super-techno family by many standards. Our TV is rather small and gimmick-free. Yes, we have no Blackberries. We have only just recently become part of the iPod universe. But I have discovered that, once a new electronic device enters our lives, it shows us who’s boss pretty rapidly. And the boss ain’t us.
Was it really only eight years ago that I didn’t know how to send an email? Now, when I am away from the Internet for even a day, I fret and pace like an addict, fantasizing about the messages that are piling up in my inbox — even the “fw:fw:fw: pass this one on!” The cell phone has also quickly become a necessity of life. God forbid if I have something in my purse that rings during a concert because I thought I’d put it on vibrate. I am a busy and important lady, and people need to know they can reach me 24/7!
My family and friends have heard me rail against the short attention spans and rudeness of many kids today — kids who walk through life with a constant soundtrack of music piped into ears, kids who see nothing wrong with texting each other in church. But I am being a hypocrite. I have clearly developed an equal (and equally annoying) reliance on machines — to feel connected, to feel better about, or at least more in control of, my world.
I have often heard people say that if Jesus’ ministry on earth was happening now, He would avail Himself of every possible modern device in order to get His message to us. And that may well be true. But it is all too easy for the medium to BE the message, and to lull us into thinking we really ARE connecting with one another. Do emails and pagers and cell phones make us closer? Or just make it easier for us to think we are? Are we hooked on instant communication — or instant gratification?
Growing a friendship, a deep, true friendship, takes time. It takes focus. It isn’t a process well served by constant interruption, by easy distractions. In this world of the Next Big Thing, maybe we’re losing a sense of the Real Big Thing: a grace-filled life, where there is room and time for a few deep, true friendships. Including friendship with the One who loves us the most.
I am so afraid we’re losing that, with our ever-jangling cell phones and our red-hot computer keyboards. Though the wall-to-wall music in our ears can make this feel like a movie about life sometimes, this actually is life. Right now. And we can make our own choices, or let our machines shape our days for us.
Maybe it’d be a good idea for me to remember that. To go unplugged once in awhile and just see what happens next.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. This piece is taken, with permission, from her recently self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, based on her life as a mom and church worker. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com. (Also from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bn.com, although they add an extra charge.)