November 28, 2017
A little over a year ago, while traveling to speak to families in Norfolk Virginia about HoneyRock, I stumbled across this sign in the Chicago O’Hare airport.
Struck by its appeal to a primal human need – food – I snapped a picture and began pondering how technology is beginning to become so engrained in our daily lives that we perceive it to be a most basic need.
Fast forward a little less than a year. Similar trip, different airport. This time, as I arrived in Minneapolis, St. Paul walking off the jet bridge of my Delta flight into the concourse I was a bit shocked by what I heard and saw. The concourse was eerily quiet and iPads littered the large space. At every gate, a series of booths equipped with iPads – one for each side of the booth. At every restaurant table, one iPad for each chair at the table. At the bar, one iPad for each stool. The shock factor was admittedly magnified since my current life in the Northwoods of Wisconsin consists of minimal internet access, poor cell phone service, and no cable television. However, it was the people sitting in front of these devices that shocked and challenged me the most. The vast majority of travelers in the concourse were glued to these iPads, and if not, they were glued to their personal devices. They were, as we would say in 2017, ‘connecting’.
Just a few decades ago ‘connecting’ had a very different meaning. To connect prior to the ‘personal device era’ was to be physically present with another person – to talk, laugh, cry, reflect, be challenged and be encouraged face to face. As I ponder these polarizing definitions of connection, I can’t help but wonder how many of our societal problems are the result of this change in definition of ‘connection’. The word connection, like the phrase ‘feed on technology’, appeals to a primal human need. God made humans relational, and we cannot underestimate the importance of relational connection for our health of body, mind and soul. Ironically, it is the same primal needs that Jesus uses in many of his metaphors for relationship with him. Throughout the gospels, Jesus reminds us that our need for Him and our need for community is as basic and essential as our need for food and love.
While reflecting on this experience in the airport, I have been convicted of my own dependence on and idolization of technology. My time in the airport was extended by about 7 hours due to weather in Rhinelander, and I confess to pulling out my phone in order to seek comfort in its many distractions to deal with the stress of uncontrollable circumstances. Here’s the point - technology is not inherently bad or destructive, but when it begins to masquerade as the answer to all of our deepest needs, we run into problems. Truthfully, technology cannot meet those deepest needs. It cannot replace the power of true human relationships. When we begin to rely on it do that, and discover in a moment of clarity it cannot, we become depressed, cynical, frustrated and lonely. This is why I believe the absence of technology during camp experiences is critical for youth development. In these experiences children encounter God, themselves and others in a way that truly meets their deepest human needs and gives us hope for life with God today, tomorrow and forever.
~ written by Rachael Cyrus, Passage and Fellows Program Manager