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Thursday, October 15, 2015


It's a new term, a merging of "phone" and "snubbing" to indicate ways that we snub people with our phone usage. Researchers at Baylor University have found that our use of phones these days can actually be leading to higher levels of depression and ruined relationships. And I'm thinking, "Well ... duh."

I know. Lots of people disagree with me. "We're more connected now than ever," they tell me. I don't think so. It's not what I see. Here's what I see.

Shallow interactions
We may have more immediate interactions with smartphones and social media, but they appear to be far shallower than anything prior. We thrive on abbreviation. Shorter time, less depth, expressions in soundbites limited to 140 characters, that kind of thing. This leaves lots of room for "LOL" and "Good job!" or, more likely, "That's stinks!" (without, of course, being as kind as using the word "stinks"). It leaves little room for nuance, careful consideration, or explanation -- depth. I'm finding that more and more people are looking at more and more stuff with less and less attention. As an example, I wrote an email to a supervisor that detailed all the (impossible) tasks that would have to be completed in order to finish the assignment. I concluded, "I don't believe it can be done." The response was, "Good! Get right on it!" Because the reader scanned the email to see a list of things to do, not the fact that they were impossible. Inattention.

We're all about multitasking today. So we're talking and driving or texting and driving. We're in a class or a meeting or a conversation or even church while we cruise the Internet with our "smart" phone or iPad. We're amusing our kids with the devices while we do the "important" stuff. The problem, of course, is that multitasking is a lie. It can't be done. The human brain can work on one thing at a time. Not more. So when we multitask, we work on one thing and then another thing and then another thing for brief time frames. It is distraction and lack of focus, resulting in none of them getting done well.

The Internet thrives on anonymity. We use fake names and fake images and demand that the government not get involved in any regulation precisely because we want to be able to remain anonymous. Why? So that we can be unaccountable. If no one knows who we are, we can say what we want and not have consequences. Even when they know who we are, there is still a sense of distance over smartphones and Internet chats and even video chats. I mean, if you say something mean to someone on the other end of the line, they are certainly not going to haul off and smack your face, are they? No. They can't. So we thrive on this impersonalization at the same time that we assure ourselves that we're "more connected."

Electronic Christianity
Having convinced ourselves that being connected over a phone or a computer is the very same thing as in person -- maybe better -- it is a very short hop to electronic Christianity. Sure, we need to fellowship. Isn't that what I'm doing when I read my friend's Facebook account of how God blessed her? And tell her, "Praise God"? I mean, why go to church when I have Twitter? Why do I need "organized religion" when I can be so spiritual watching sermons online? And we end up with electronic Christianity.

The end of a language
One of the things that is of particular concern to me is the damage to language. When LOL and BTW mean more than "propitiation", we are clearly losing a sense of the language. Limited as electronic interactions are, we tend toward shortcuts. As such, the most effective interactions are at the emotional level rather than the exchange of ideas. So we operate in abbreviations, emoticons, and pithy exchanges with a generation that no longer knows what's wrong with "I like this better then that" or can tell the difference between "they're", "there", or "their" (or whether "their" is spelled with an "ie" or "ei"). Our "connectedness" is killing the language.

Maybe our modern version of communication with smartphones and Internet has its advantages. I'm not sure what they are. But I'm pretty sure that we are not more connected than ever. Want proof? I bet very few actually made it to this paragraph. Why? Because Microsoft tells us that the average smartphone user attention span has fallen below that of goldfish. Researchers clocked the average human attention span at just 8 seconds in 2013, falling 4 seconds from the 12-second average in 2000, a second less than a goldfish. So this post was TLDR -- "too long; didn't read." And that is "more connected"? I think not.

1 comment:

Bob said...

thts wat i sd th othr da 2 a frnd of mn
wy cnt we Jst rd fstr ? LOL.... i dnt knw abut u bt i m nt gttng any btter.
we shd ask, wy cnt jonni Rd? bcas he kps stting hs bks on fre.
i alwys wntd 2 b a wrtr nw i r 1.
tnk u jsuss.