This is For All the Lonely People… (Generation M, Part II)

Aside

I wish every blog could be written as a letter to my daughter, however… back to the task at hand, right?

’Twas the best of times, ’Twas the worst of times

The other day, a mentor of mine challenged me about the lecture/seminar “circuit” I have begun. Speaking simply, it seemed to him that I could not decide whether I was “for or against” these new Social Media tools.

First of all, it’s a moot point. As we discussed in the first part of this series, it is here – ready or not.

For the record though, I am excited about this technology and the opportunities it presents for our world, and I am eager to identify the ways in which it is changing today’s teenagers (meeting some needs not met before, leaving voids where needs were once met) and thus changing the way we will interact with one another as parents, ministers, educators, and professionals, over the course of the next generation or two.

One example of the reward/risk that is attached with Social Media is the dichotomy of connectivity and loneliness that it creates.

On one hand, with Facebook and Instagram, cell phones and iPads, we now feel more connected to one another than ever before.

However, as Sherry Turkle points out, these tools and tricks actually enable an illusion of connectivity that lends itself to an increased level of loneliness that is powerful, yet harder to identity. Turkle writes:

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

 

This technology is making us (as individuals and groups) more power and capable now than every before. As we learn how to maximize our potential with this technology it is equally important that we understand the new needs and risks it creates.

As we capitalize on our electronic relationships with one another and Generation M, let us remember that we are making a connection and not an impact.

We as a “Church” have are positioned beautifully to make that impact in the days to come.

Social Media must always be used as a TOOL for a ministry and not a ministry unto itself. It is the difference between preaching to someone ministering to someone

Relationships are not “in jeopardy” because of this technology, they are in fact, all the more necessary.

For never before has the world been more connected,

AND never before has our world been more lonely.

Stay tuned…

Generation M – It Is What It Is

I’ve had the opportunity to start doing some presentations centered around the Social Media Revolution, how it is changing our world, and what we as educators, ministers, or youth workers need to do to capitalize on it (if not, manage it).

However, one thing we as adults need to understand and recognize is that our teens (and adolescents) are more entrenched in this revolution than we are.

Sure, the fastest growing population of Facebook users are “Female Speeders” (Women, 55+) – that gap is narrowing, but we as a generation of adults are still behind where are teenagers are in terms of embedding this technology into their everyday lives.

What this means is that we have yet to identify how this technology has affected today’s student. Yes, we know (to some degree) how it is changing our world, but we continue to teach and work with today’s teen as if they are the teenagers we had 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.

Fact is, the teenager we are dealing with is differently affected by media than any other student in the history of the world.

They are over-processed and under-developed. They have the access to answers, yet have less capacity to develop thoughts. They are more connected than ever before and have less capacity for intimacy. They are more programmed than ever, yet have less time for personal growth and development.

I’ve always said that the needs of the teenager have not changed. However, what has changed is the spectrum of which needs are being met vs. those needs which our youth show up having unfulfilled.

We can no longer assume that teenagers need the same things they needed from teachers, youth ministers, ministers, etc. that they’ve needed over the past several years.

And, we can no longer debate whether or not media, specifically Social Media, is “worth it” or not.

It’s now time to talk about how to adapt to this new age, embrace the potential and guard against the dangers.

Generation Multimedia – It is what it is.

And what are we going to do about it?

(Image Courtesy of OnlineSchools.com)

To Be Continued…