I think we have a problem.
The practice of text messaging has taken on a whole life of its own. It’s almost become a kind of sub-culture, and I am definitely guilty of buying into it. In fact, I can’t keep track of the number of times I have text messaged people at borderline inappropriate moments–in class, in church, while driving (I would strongly encourage you NOT to do this one, by the way), and the list goes on.
One of the main reasons I like texting is the efficiency of it. It’s much quicker to text someone a question than to call them and possibly get delayed by the niceties of proper conversation. There is no “how are you” “what have you been up to today?” “how’s your family?” “how’s your job?” etc. It’s just straight forward, to the point, I get what I want right away.
It’s also extremely impersonal.
Text messaging allows us to minimize the relational aspect of communication. We want what we want now, without having to give of ourselves to get it. We don’t want to waste time on the stuff that “doesn’t matter” and get straight to the meat of things.
Does it sound to you like something is amiss? Are we possibly overlooking something that God mght have written into the very nature of conversation–relationships??
But in addition to the fact that text messaging is corroding the relational aspect of our culture, it’s also feeding our need for instant gratification information. As soon as my cell phone buzzes, I HAVE to know who is texting me. I can’t wait to pick it up and read the message. And I have to text them back immediately, as if it is the most urgent message in the world. Which makes me wonder, why am I so obsessively tied to my cell phone? Why do I have to be at its beckon call every moment of the day?
But text messaging is really only symptomatic of a larger cultural phenomenon that we must really keep in check: we prefer to have relationship with machines instead of people.
Just think for a moment–how much time do you spend on the computer each day? How much time do you spend in front of the tv? And how much time do you spend text messaging?
Now compare that with how much quality time you spent with friends, family, and most importantly God. Do they even compare? And in case you think I’m exaggerating, have you ever been distracted from a conversation with someone because you were texting someone else, or because the person with whom you were speaking was also texting another person? Even when we are physically with other human beings, we’re still not actually WITH them because our attention is profoundly tied to our phones.
We live in a world that ranks efficiency over intimacy. We would rather get the job done than get to know the people we are working with. We would rather keep our attention constantly fed than to do the hard work of being patient and getting to know others better. And we would rather keep people at a safe distance–conversing with them through phones, IM, e-mail, even the self checkout line–than making ourselves vulnerable by letting them close.
So while this is not a call to stop text messaging altogether, it is a call to monitor the frequency of your actions, and think about what they indicate. Do your actions indicate to your friends that you’d rather be somewhere else, and that you’re not really present with them? Do your actions reinforce a kind of A.D.D. need for constant stimulation and information? Do your actions cause you to be rude, thoughtless or at times disrespectful to the Lord Himself because of your need to be doing a thousand things at once, without every doing any of them truly well?
What culture are you feeding into? What mindset are you cementing in yourself? Think about that the next time you’re tempted to text someone during that boring class you hate, or the worship service you attend. Text messaging is not, in itself, wrong, but keep in mind that God created us to live in community (hence the Church) so we must be cautious not to short-circuit such a vital support network. Text messaging may not seem like much, but as Solomon reminded us, it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.
(By the way, this post was NOT written in response to the two people who texted me during church this morning. You know who you are, but the timing is purely coincidental. 🙂 )