Devotional, Day 7

Screens Can Make Us Feel Like Face-to-Face Relating is Boring

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." 
Proverbs 16:24

In addition to face-to-face relating seeming scary and unpredictable, it can also seem boring to those who are regularly inundated with the entertaining world that screens have to offer. In his book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter makes the point that “feedback” is an important component of keeping someone hooked. From video games to social media, these avenues are loaded with instantaneous feedback for your every action. Alter says, “It’s our generation’s crack cocaine. People are addicted. We experience withdrawals. We are so driven by this drug, getting just one hit elicits truly peculiar reactions….I’m talking about Likes.” 

So many people are driven by this constant feedback loop. Alter says, “Even as you come to loathe Facebook or Instagram for consuming too much of your time, you continue to want updates as much as you did when they still made you happy.” Interacting with our screen provides constant bombardment of stimuli and entertainment. In contrast to this, face-to-face relating can seem boring. We crave this instant feedback and yet so much face-to-face relating doesn’t provide this. Instead, when we relate in-person, it often requires silence, listening, and patience. We often don’t get the kind of immediate, exciting feedback we get with scrolling through a newsfeed, clicking on a new article, or watching dozens of quick, hilarious videos.

Plus, excessive use of screens distracts us when we actually do try to relate. It is very difficult to get into deep, meaningful conversation when the presence of a phone offers the potential for a new notification or update. People are shown to be less likely to share personal information if they feel like no one is listening and it leads to feelings of annoyance. According to a self-reported assessment, over 70% of young adults “feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications.” The average American checks their phone on average once every 12 minutes – getting distracted by their phones 80 times a day. As mentioned before, anxiety and worry often accompany screen activity over responses to things we’ve posted. Combine that with the “fear of missing out” and the rush we get from exciting new notifications and it’s a recipe for constant distraction even once we put our phones down.

Consider all of the one-another passages we see in Scripture. Think about the type of relating required in order to encourage, admonish, teach, accept, and love one another (1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:7; John 13:34). These are just a sampling of the depth of relating God desires us to have with one another. How could we possibly have relationships that are characterized by this kind of relating if we mostly connect with people through social media or text? Our relationships can be some of the richest and most enjoyable experiences in our life, but we must consider whether our screen time is setting us up for success or failure in this area.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why are building relationships worth it to you, even when it’s not always fun and exciting?
  2. Have you noticed your phone being disruptive to in-person relating? How so?
  3. Have you noticed others’ phones being disruptive when you are trying to relate to them? How does it make you feel?