Screens and the Future of Love

I was watching this video and thought about how different the world is today than when I was growing up. My kids spend a lot of their time on screens, but I grew up reading books. I am almost as caught up in screens as they are, of course. I work on a computer all day. The difference is that I know I have lost something.

People have always had a way to isolate. If you want to avoid personal contact, screens simply provide us more and easier ways to do it. Screens provide us a way to ease our pain through a vast array of distracting and time-consuming media options. There are not only cable programs which expose us to every aspect of life across the planet, but there are games which provide a depersonalized form of interaction with other people. (In some cases, we're running around and trying to shoot them to score points.) It is the illusion of real human contact. It's a substitute for something real and life-changing.

As I am writing, an image from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 just popped into my head. It's a woman who stays indoors, pays no attention to her husband, and watches "feelies," a sort of three dimensional soap opera where the viewer is able to interact with the characters in the show, in a society where books are outlawed and are burnt. Bradbury wrote that book in 1953. His intuitions were amazing. 

I don't think anything can substitute for having someone put their arms around you and hold you. I think there is a difference between texting and the experience of making time to sit face to face with someone. I don't think the important things in life can happen virtually. Seeing a cable TV program about Hawaii is not the same as going to Hawaii. If you've been to Hawaii, you understand what I mean.

I love getting calls and texts from my kids, but it's only a way to fill the gaps between times that I am with them. Maybe my point is only obvious when you have relationships that are that powerful in your life. Maybe people don't understand my point because their point of greatest intimacy with others is found on World of Warcraft. I don't know.

In a Christian worldview, it's even more problematic. Media gives us a way to reach some of these isolated people, but it prevents us from showing real love. Love isn't a sentiment in a text message, it's something you actively do to care for others. Texts are easy. Showing real love is inconvenient. It costs you something. I guess that's the point I'm trying to make. Our culture is giving us more and more reasons to change the way that we think about things like love. At the point where virtual experiences and relationships become more important to us than real ones, we have lost something important and essential to being human.

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