I’m Right in Front of You

We had ten beautiful minutes of uninterrupted, engaging discussion, but in a matter of fateful seconds, I had lost their hard-earned attention. Before I knew it, the entire classroom of 11th-grade students had smartphones in hand and their eyes glued to the tiny, glowing screens. In a matter of seconds, I changed from the interesting, insightful, wealth of knowledge (ok, maybe just slightly interesting!) to nothing short of the lifeless metal desk beside me. Those pocket-sized vortexes held my 16-year-old students captive—more than any book I had begged them to read.

Teaching is just one of the dozen areas of my life that have been thoroughly affected—for better or for worse—by technology. I’ve been engaged in a prayer meeting for the nations when my phone rings and disrupts everyone. I’ve been in a deep discussion with a younger woman when my professor emails me an important document.

Being in this irrevocably connected age often leaves me feeling less “connected” to people than I try so desperately to be. I’m spread a million miles wide but less than an inch deep. Because of social media, I might know my distant cousin went on a ski trip, but I have a really hard time devoting 30 minutes of my full attention to a new co-worker.

I recently spent a week “fasting” from all social media. I deleted apps off of my phone and blocked sites on my computer. I quickly found I didn’t really miss out on anything. Without those outlets, I left my phone in my purse or my car. I was more focused, and I prayed when I had moments of boredom instead of grabbing my phone. I noticed pain in the voices of those around me. I asked more questions.

Staying connected through technology and social media can be an incredible tool for reaching others, but if we neglect the real people around us for the sake of the screens in our hands, we miss the opportunity to preach the gospel. Staying “connected” in the digital age creates the illusion of relationships.

So, how do we balance these worlds? I think we must set limits. Set a timer for social media. Only answer emails at a certain time each day. Turn off your phone for a few minutes a day. Like Jesus, give your attention to those at hand.

“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3 NIV).

Rebekah Bundy has worked as a writer and copy editor and is excited about teaching secondary education this fall. She and her husband are passionate about international missions and discipleship.






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