I was having lunch with a friend, and she shared with me an experience she recently had. There was a trampoline set up where children could put on a harness that was attached to bungee cords. This allowed the person to jump higher and do flips without worrying about falling off.
My friend watched as a young girl was jumping on this trampoline. She was bouncing and squealing with pure joy and delight, calling out, “Mommy, mommy, look at me.” Seated some distance away was the girl’s parents, both absorbed in looking at their phones. Occasionally the woman would glance up and look, but mostly her head was down, focused on the phone in her hand.
It came time for this little girl’s turn to be over, and the trampoline attendant was instructing her how to stop and get down. The distance from the trampoline surface to the ground was quite high, and all of a sudden the joy in this girl’s face was replaced by fear and doubt. She was looking around for her mom or dad, who were still glued to their phones. With the laws and liabilities these days, it was clear the attendant was trained not to touch the person, but he was trying to coach the girl on what to do — “Sit down on the edge, then slide your feet down toward the ground.” She did it, and as soon as she unbuckled her harness, ran over to where her parents were sitting. “Did you see me? Did you see what I did?” she excitedly asked.
As my friend was recounting this story, I felt sad that the parents missed this small opportunity to connect and be a part of their child’s life. My point here isn’t to cast judgment on them — perhaps they are struggling to make ends meet and were doing work on their phones. But maybe it was the latest on social media or news headlines that robbed this little girl of the security of having a caring, interested adult nearby to share her joy and lift her off of the trampoline at the end.
I’ve heard many parents of older children say, “The days went by slowly, but the years sped by; and before we knew it, they were gone.”
As I thought about all this, I was reflecting on my own interaction with people and asked myself some questions:
- Do I bring my phone to the table when I am eating with others?
- Am I looking at my screen instead of the person who is talking to me at any given moment?
- Have I spent more time on Facebook and Instagram than I have one-on-one with people?
These are temptations that I want to be alert for and on guard against.
If you were suddenly deprived of internet access, and it lasted for weeks or months, what would be the state of your social network? Would you have supportive, genuine “real-life” friends and strong bonds within your family? Or would your life be void of meaningful relationships?
When we do our daily examen at night, maybe that is one of the questions we can ask ourselves: Did I connect more with people today or more with my devices?