Flat Earth

I’m hesitant to write these things out loud. I wonder if the scientists who first postulated and later confirmed that the earth is round were hesitant in a similar fashion. I’d like to think they were bold all the time, but how did their new and challenging ideas resonate in their own conscious before striking the population’s known reality upside the head?

Too bad my thoughts aren’t as groundbreaking… But I’m giving it a go!

I’m sitting in the same bedroom, in the same house, in the same neighborhood, same school district, in the same city, same state, same nation, earth, universe, that I would have sat five years ago to write a blog post. What might I have written about? Anything, really. Check out my categories to the right and browse through. See how many differing ideas and interests I dabbled in. Many of these interests have stuck with me: I still have a huge passion for music and family, and for honesty, reality, logic, and curiosity. I still love my friends even if the scenery has changed a bit. I’m even the same height and weight, eat a similar diet, and do a similar amount of physical activity. I still understand the inner-workings of a computer, I still enjoy political humor, I still enjoy pondering natural beauty in people and the world, and swimming still isn’t my favorite.

But today feels so different from that past. Indeed, my life contains blessings beyond measure; if I started a thankfulness list to share with you, it would surpass the sum of all other words on this blog. You might say my paradigm has shifted just a bit. An new umbrella now covers me – I trust Christ for my life and view anything good as having come from Father God.

For some reason I’m hesitant to write and share even that good news these days.

Everything that has happened in me and to me in the past few years doesn’t reach the masses as quickly as it once did. My excitement at a new idea or pursuit is usually limited to my mind…sometimes a close friend. It’s ironic that this is true when today’s technology lets us be connected to hundreds of friends more quickly than anyone had imagined just a generation ago. And since I would expect such technology to help me express and share, I’m actually going to blame it: Facebook and smart phones.

Facebook status updates have robbed me of the release and validation that came from sharing my thoughts and activities in more detail. Instead of catching a new idea and then taking a substantial amount of time to hash out detail in order to share a complete synopsis, I now tend to think in shorter phrases. Anything that is witty but brief. Or perhaps, profoundly short. I’ve always been into making a deep impression, be it factually, emotionally, or humorously. But my full blog post expressions that achieved this so well in the past have been pared down to curt statements that hardly begin to unlock all the thoughts and emotions that could be sown and grown in my mindgarden.

Facebook enables us to emphasize surface image and neglect truer understanding. Its much safer to analyze and judge someone from a distance. For instance, this may be through forming opinions about the stinky kid in the back of math class that no one ever talks to. Its easier to feel better about ourselves when there is distance between us and those we deem inferior.

Online socialization establishes an even safer distance. The computer chair I sit in has become so much more comfortable than it used to be because I’ve gotten used to avoiding interaction when I feel I need to. But a good friend of mine, Charlie, surmises that without awkward social interactions we don’t grow as fast. I’ll build on this and say that less face-to-face interaction altogether – awkward or not – is going to leave us socially and emotionally underdeveloped. I used to hardly sit in one place for more than an hour because I was running from one project to another, from homework, to family, to friends. Now this judgement seat is my favorite place to rest and eat up time instead of exploring or connecting.

Even outside of this judgement aspect, Facebook gives the illusion of satisfaction of our desires for social interaction with things that aren’t quite as fulfilling. We were created to be relational; connectedness is in our emotional DNA. Granted, I’m an introvert and feel drained after being with others, but I’m learning how beneficial this connectedness is for my intellect and sanity. Skimming over other peoples statuses, photos, and listed activities is NOT the level of relationship that will fill our lonely soul-holes. Facebook News Feeds end up making us feel more connected and in-the-know but give no real friendship foundation to satiate our social desires.

Smart phones are almost as evil as Facebook. They do have many amiable qualities that put them ahead of social sites, though. Like useful apps, alarms, calendars, to-do lists, cameras, contact management, and email. Fast and convenient. Even trendy and fashionable.

But something about smart phones – all phones actually – that I’ve noticed recently, is their capacity to steal us away from now, the moment we live in and the people with whom we abide. More and more I find myself interacting with people who have a phone in their hand and are glancing down multiple times (or even texting) as they speak or “listen” in conversation. Even an atmosphere that has been deemed a “hang out” or “date” is riddled with phones in our laps and beside our dinner plates. This digital communication dominates our attention and even takes precedence if interesting or important enough. And seriously, as I just wrote that last sentence, my phone buzzed by my thigh and I glanced at it – a text that I’ll now pause to look at…

See how that just disrupted my thought process? Do you realize how many times this happens to you and what you’re missing out on as a result? Since when did staring at a screen become as invigorating as shared laughter or gazing into another’s eyes?

These times of pure thought exploration and social relating, where we’re forging ahead in our mindgardens and possibly (positively) influencing others, get jolted off course. I’m as guilty as anyone. It is our free-will decision to allow distractions. But I think I’m only beginning to realize the personal consequences.

I’m someone who enjoys expressing. I’m a learner and a sharer. Even though I have hardly written on this blog in the past three years, I have maintained a journal consistently: my occasional log of things that happen during my day and my more routine reflection on things I learn in bible study and prayer. And maybe that is healthy enough. But it definitely isn’t any sort of public exploration of new ideas and learning. I don’t tend to step up and offer my views like I used to.

My fear is that our world is gradually flattening. We’re settling. We’re withdrawing into our individual, media driven lives. And tons of media tells us it is okay to be loners. It seems like the day is coming where we will prefer to fulfill our desire for relationship, closeness, and intimacy through the quick and easy touch of a button. We will all build a habit of being satisfied with a funny video, cute status, addictive game and some new pictures someone posted. Gradually our desire to know others will be replaced with an existence of sole and lonely self.

Billy (another great friend) and I agree that although individual perception isn’t reality, it might as well be. (That is another entire post.) A thousand years ago the world might as well have been flat. No one knew any better, and it really didn’t matter for life’s operation at the time. Now the earth is turning flat again by our own devices; through distraction and lack of depth. We all know the world really isn’t flat – but it might as well be.

Maybe I’ll try this in 2012: give myself more time for thought development and self-knowledge. Maybe we’ll all find ways to combat the depersonalization in our digital society. Toss me some comments!

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4 Responses to Flat Earth

  1. Joel says:

    I think this is an idea that is not solely your own, but I liked the way that you expressed it. I recognize the irony of writing this on the internet, when it is primarily about our alienation from each other via this medium (esp. since I know there are people I have talked mostly to over internet).

    I guess what was striking me about what you wrote is its similarity to a short story that seems to be obligatory for exiting middle school: Harrison Bergeron. Frankly, I think it’s a somewhat poorly written story, but the point still remains. How much of our potential is lost because we feel like we get the most response from a thought that is 140 characters or less? Preferably something new all the time, without deeper investigation? When nuance and complexity is met with “tl;dr”? And how does this help the people who are running things, for our every thought to be constantly interrupted, or constantly shortened to a universal yet trivial brevity?

    That’s why I started blogging long form again, but I think that people aren’t used to responding to long ideas anymore. Maybe they never really were. But it’s interesting that I was able to read 8 books in the week that I had no school, no tv, no internet; with the internet, I have barely read at all.

  2. Noah says:

    What you’ve written is spot on. I’ve had these same thoughts percolating in my head for awhile now. The 1’s and 0’s of technology can stimulate relationship, but never replace the tangibles. Our on-demand digital escapism may bring us access to a wealth of info, but perhaps it is starving our souls in the process. The Father never designed relationships to be a mile wide/inch deep. Even Christ limited the # of his closest disciples to 12.
    Thanks for taking the time to share. Merry Christmas!

  3. Julie says:

    “…although individual perception isn’t reality, it might as well be. ”

    Favorite line; I want to read /that/ post soon!

    It’s so true about Facebook and Smartphones. I’m way too guilty of excessively filling my time, even when I’m not lacking things to do, with Facebook or things on my phone. I can be 100% busy, and I will still bother with looking at my phone 56,000 times a day. (Figuratively, I hope.)

    πŸ™‚ It is a goal for my next year, especially upon my new additions to my schedule and my life, to be less involved with the wireless world, and be more connected to myself and the people I care about. I think the world would be a better place if everyone understood the need for this adjustment in our individual perceptions.

  4. Carly says:

    Indeed… My question in light of these thoughts and truths: What would happen if we took the time that we spend on Facebook (or whatever it is we busy ourselves with online) and invested it in people–real people with real needs, hurts, wants; face-to-face, true caring, genuine sharing of time, of thoughts and ideas, of jokes, of ourselves….? And let me get more specific and important with that question: If we invested that time and truly, wholeheartedly, absolutely loved on God’s children–how would that impact the Kingdom???

    Sure, we can retrieve a brief synopsis of how someone’s day is going by creepin’ on their profile, but what would happen if we cared enough to know what was going on in their life without having to go look? (And let’s be honest–how many of us actually go look at someone’s page to check and see how they’re doing?? I know I don’t.)

    I think you’re onto something, friend. Something that needs re-evaluated by everyone, and probably changed by the same number of people. I shall ponder further! πŸ™‚

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