United Church of Christ

Into the Mystic: Connected

Being disconnected is unsettling. Stay connected and grounded

I had a harrowing experience last week.

No, nothing serious. I wasn’t in any harm.

I just left my cell phone at home when I left for work. I  hate to admit it, but it freaked me out a bit. Hey, I got over it. And as far as problems go, that wasn’t even close to my biggest one that day.

But it did give me pause. I mean, I had a perfectly functional landline right there in my office – so it wasn’t like I was stranded alone on the side of the road in the middle of the night without any way to access someone if I needed to. What was going on that I felt so disoriented?

There is now a diagnosable anxiety that some are calling nomophobia. It is a separation anxiety that manifests when people are disconnected from their smartphone.

I know we all want to dismiss that as malarkey. It isn’t, as one might think, about not being able to call or text every 30 seconds. It has more to do with the fact that now so much of our personal information and our personal story and personal memories are stored in there. One of the psychologists doing the study writes, “As smartphones evoke more personal memories, users extend more of their identity onto their smartphones.”

My mom used to tell us as children – if the house is on fire grab the photo albums and run!

I have dozens of photo albums in my house right now – and losing them would be disastrous and painful for me. All of them date before the mid 2000s. From the time of my first smartphone till today, no photo albums. Flikr and Shutterfly and Google and the Cloud all now store those precious memories for me. And my smartphone accesses them all. Twenty times a day I pull that out and look at photos: vacations and family reunions and visits to churches and first moments with two precious grandchildren all appear. I smile. I feel connected and grounded. I get lost reeling in the years and strolling down memory lane.

Do I worry about our attachments to smart devices that threaten to depersonalize us? Sure, a little bit.

Do I wonder if we are losing the art of letter-writing, good communications skills, hard conversations looking the other person in the eye? I do, a little.

Do I worry that it has become too easy to say things in an email or text we would never say to a person’s face? I do. I also worry that we read things in an email that were never intended by the writer because we can’t read intonation, body language, and other nuances that shift the intent.

But I don’t wish we could turn the clock back and change this. Technology has always advanced and not only threatened what was precious in previous ages, but found us able to adjust without losing our bearing, be that physical of spiritual or emotional or existential.

We adjust.

We grow.

We change.

And God endures.

After a few hours without my phone I forgot it wasn’t there. I did my work. I breathed and found that life moved on. And when I got in the car later that day when Mimi picked my up from work the first thing I asked was “Did you bring my phone.” She said ‘no.’ I smiled, kissed her, and we enjoyed each other’s company on the ride home from work.

However it works for you, stay connected on this, our journey Into the Mystic.


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