One of the most helpful and challenging books that I have read recently is A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. As a parent of four children, a ministry professor, and someone who works with church leaders I need this information. It is a mix of frightening wake-up calls and solid advice at the same time.
I may write a more thorough review of the book at some point, but in this post, I simply want to share some of their thoughts from one of the chapters entitled, “Being Alone Together”. This chapter is about social media, smartphones, and how we interact (or don’t interact with each other).
It is highly likely that you are reading this blog post on your smartphone. You may even be reading it in the presence of several people. While seated in and around those people, you are choosing to read this post rather than interact with them. You are together with others, but you are “alone”. This is a common scene and one that is not healthy because we are sacrificing real face-to-face interaction with family and friends for the alternate universe of cyberspace.
The authors list and describe some of the Lies that Technology Teaches us:
Lie # 1 – I am the center of my own universe. Focus on self at the expense of others actually costs us more than we could ever imagine. Sitting around a table with friends, only to be “connected” to people who aren’t even there is odd. It is self-focused and actually causes us to lose ourselves and our real connections.
Lie # 2 – I deserve to be happy all the time. Solomon tried this and it didn’t work. This false belief has led to the highest rate of anxiety, depression, and suicide for the adolescent generation than ever in our history. Loving God and loving people, and giving our lives in service to others are more healthy paths for all of us. Besides, I cannot be happy all the time, according to the standards of the world.
Lie # 3 – I must have choices. This is a Western problem. Most people in the world don’t have many choices. We have closets full of clothes, refrigerators full of food, and minds filled with images from advertisers. In truth, this leads to more stress than we care to admit. The constant connection to our devices makes this worse.
Lie # 4 – I am my own authority. We want to be in control. We think we are supposed to be in control, but in reality, we control very little. We are not alone in the universe and we have a God who created us and sustains life. We need to submit to Him and seek His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33).
Lie # 5 – Information is all I need, not teachers. All I need is a good video, a book, or the ability to Google something to find out what I need to know. Ha! This sounds liberating and too many of us believe it, but in reality, we all need teachers not just to give us information but to guide us through how to use the information we receive. Even teachers need teachers, and the greatest teacher of all time is Jesus Christ.
Let me close with a short list of suggestions from the authors about how to help our kids (and ourselves) avoid being alone together. The suggestions are places that should be device-free zones:
1 – The car
2 – The dinner table
3 – Bedrooms
4 – Vacations
For a more in-depth treatment of this topic, and other issues affecting today’s young people, I recommend buying this outstanding book. You will be glad you did.