Like many of you every day, in fact day and night, I receive emails from people and companies and fundraisers. Now some of the mail that comes into my e-box is from folks I know and am happy to hear from. Some of the emails are from people or churches or companies who are needing information or help with some issue or idea and some is new electronic but old junk mail. But most of it like that is just totally impersonal and actually disconnected. Some of it will come with a greeting, “Hello, James Robert Futral,” which is a dead giveaway that they don’t know who they’re talking to or what’s going on. Some of it is just addressed to, “Hi.” But the most impersonal of all came the other day that said, “Hello ____.”
Most of the time I would not pay any attention at all to what they are selling or saying, but I was attracted to see what person or company who thinks they’re making a connection by saying, “Hello ____.” Smoke signals are more personal than that. Now I know that probably Hello ____ was pulled off some data file with my email address and a missing name and so the computer default position was just to say ____. I was not highly offended at being called ____. It didn’t hurt or humiliate me one bit, but I can assure you that I checked to see what company was sending it and what they were wanting because I did not want to be a part of what they were doing.
I know that the generations just behind me actually think that that is all connectedness with their community world and that that’s just who we are now, people who don’t know anybody but stay connected with all these blanks. Folks on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and who connect with users out there by calling them ____ will no doubt one day in some way come to their senses and realize this is really not connectedness at all.
I am well aware that Scripture does not have a lot to say about social media and all of its ramifications, but it does have a lot to say about personal relationships and how significant they are and how they need to be strengthened. So for all of this and all of us, let me encourage you to think about three simple things.
One – evaluate. In context of your Mr. ____ relationships, pause and evaluate your connections. It could be that some of them are meaningless and empty; others can even be wrong and destructive. Not everything we read on the Internet and especially on these personal connections is valid and some of it is not just borderline. It is nothing more than gross gossip. A bunch of it is unverified, unimportant, and improper information. It would be good to evaluate the reality that participating in gossip is not just passing it along, it’s also devouring it, and the problem that is created is that you are filling your mind with things that you would be far better served without. It is in some cases like loading your life up with garbage.
Two – extricate. Back away from your entanglement with some of the World Wide Web. Recently I was talking with a man who in his church had been challenged to give up something important and meaningful to him during the preparation for Easter. He thoughtfully and prayerfully gave up social media. As he was talking with me about it he said, “The first week was absolutely terrible. I did not think I was going to make it.” In the opening days of the fast from his cell phone and iPad, he began to realize how dependent, or maybe as he himself said, “addicted,” he had become to looking every few minutes at something on the Internet or the latest post by someone on Facebook. He was almost at the end of his fast when he was talking to me and he intended to log back in, but with a different thought process and not be so engaged with all that stuff.
Third – elevate. The man who was sharing with me told how it was that there were people right around him that he just zoned out from in order to look at his iPhone or iPad and there were real, live human beings that he could have interacted with and chose not to or at least was ignoring them at the moment. Deliberately, thoughtfully, think about stepping aside from cyberspace and see and hear and interact with the people who are in the space just around you. Elevate those relationships. Make the people that you know and see priority in your life. Enjoy them. Encourage them. Get to know them. For some of them probably will be your children or grandchildren who in just a few weeks you’ll turn around twice and they’ll be grown. Maybe the kids will be a mom or a dad or even a grandparent and then as you flip through your Facebook file a few times you will wonder why you didn’t take a few more minutes with them.
This may mean nothing to many of you, but if it is meaningful or not, just chalk it up as a thought from Mr. ____.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.