By Pastor Kerry Shook
The Information Age has provided our relationships with the potential to be connected and sustained like never before. Technology has streamlined our ability to communicate in such a way that we are able to update and cultivate multiple relationships in an instant. Wired to accomplish things in seconds that previously could take days to complete, we are left with more time to spend with our families, friends and the people who matter most to us. So, why do many people feel increasingly isolated and disconnected from deep and rewarding relationships?
For one day this month, my wife, Chris, and I – as well as 20,000 members of our congregation at the Woodlands Church near Houston – hope to shed light on this issue during what we’re calling the National Facebook Fast, a movement to disconnect for 24 hours on August 25. We aren’t bashing technology; we’re simply issuing a challenge for participants to take one day, set it aside and act intentionally in the relationships they hold dear. For one day we’re getting back to the basics and we’re inviting everyone around the nation to do the same.
Here’s all you do. On Wednesday, August 25th, instead of chatting on Facebook, tweeting, texting, or emailing try any of the following activities and see what happens. (Note: If you have to use these methods for schoolwork or business, of course do so, but outside of that, get unplugged.)
1. Meet up with a friend for a face to face conversation over coffee.
2. Write a handwritten letter or card and mail it.
3. Make a visit to someone in the hospital.
4. Try an act of kindness like visiting a neighbor you’ve never met to get acquainted, take a meal to a shut-in, or take some home made cookies to your local fire or police station. Be creative and have fun with it.
5. Plan a family dinner night without the TV on and all other electronic communication devices off.
Our goal? To help us all gain a better appreciation for the place technology should have in our relationships.
Indeed, more and more modern culture is leading us into the mindset that relationships come to us. We’re used to the call coming in, the message notification popping up on our iPhone, or the email appearing in our inbox. In so many ways our relationships appear to arrive at our doorstep, so to speak, and we don’t have to do much to receive them–we essentially manage the people in our lives through keyboard and mouse clicks.
While social networking is great in many aspects, the truth is, all too often we are turning it into a substitute for building real relationships, for actually sitting down and spending time with people. A quick email note, text message or picture shared on a web page is wonderful, but it is not the same as being there. The truth is, in some ways, all of it is working to keep us physically apart.
When we can technologically “touch” a friend or loved one, we don’t feel it so necessary to physically touch them. We forget the amazing power of connection found in looking into someone’s eyes, giving them our undivided attention, sensing their body language, and being in their space. Or, the transformative effect of an embrace, a handshake, or a hand on someone’s shoulder.
The theme of our day-long fast is “Be All There”─ one of four forgotten but powerful relational arts for changing, improving and repairing the relationships you care about most or building new ones ─ be it with a stranger in need or a friend, child, parent, relative, spouse, or partner.
Before long, August 25th will have come and gone and we’ll be right back to our technologically-connected selves. But hopefully, on that one day, by refraining from the obsessive use of chatting on Facebook, tweeting, texting, or emailing, we’ll discover the place technology should hold in our relationships and find the motivation to be present in the lives of the people we love.
Kerry Shook co-founded Woodlands Church in the Houston area with his wife Chris in 1993. Their new book and month-long challenge program for churches is called Love At Last Sight–30 Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships (Waterbrook Press). For more information visit, www.lastsightchallenge.com