Look at your surroundings. To your left and to your right. I would think it’s safe for me to assume that you have some sort of technological device within reach. If not within reach, within sight. This device is most likely your phone. But you also probably have a computer, a television, a tablet, and whatever else the cool kids are using these days.
Today’s technology is absolutely incredible. We have the opportunity to connect with people around the world, to hear about news and cultures we never have, and to show the world every aspect of who we are. While this is truly amazing, are these opportunities truly benefiting us?
I have always loved technology. It is an incredible tool that we should definitely take advantage of, but it also has the ability to control our lives and create a constant need for us to be “in the know.” We start to have this desire to see everything that everyone posts on Instagram, to read every Tweet, and to see every Facebook post. I continually fall into this pattern of refreshing my Instagram when I am bored instead of talking to my roommate that is sitting on the couch next to me. How many opportunities for friendship do we miss because we are too focused on the digital world, instead of the physical one around us?
Although I have realized these issues before, I never really bothered myself with them. And then I went on WalkAbout.
WalkAbout is a ten day hiking experience that every student in a campus leadership position is required to go on. We drive down to the Smoky Mountains, divide us in groups of seven or eight students, drop us off, and tell us to have fun. And one more small thing. No technology. Absolutely none. The point of WalkAbout is for us to retreat to the mountain and experience true community with God and each other.
The first few days are easy. We get to know our team extremely well very quickly, we are having fun with the difficult hikes, and life is great! But then it gets more challenging. We get to higher elevations, our bodies do not have time to fully recover each day, and we begin to wonder about the people at home and what we’re missing.
Has a new song come out? Has another world war begun? How many new Instagram followers do I have?
It begins to take over your mind. Not only can you not check your social media, you can not talk to the people you care about, and it’s terrifying.
I have now been on WalkAbout twice, and this issue was actually harder for me the second time I went this past August. Through this time, God revealed himself to me in a way that He never has before.
One of the major lessons I learned while on WalkAbout was that there are so many things in the world that are not innately bad, but when we let them take ahold of us, they can be destructive. I would put technology near the top of that list.
The digital world is incredible, but it can cause us to be always connected to the technology and lose our connection to real people. We are surrounded by such beautiful people and places, yet we are too connected to technology that we do not take the time or effort to invest in those around us. We have lost sight of the authenticity of relationships outside of our digital age. Has our need to constantly be connected actually cause us to shut off from true relationship?
While on WalkAbout, we are forced to spend ten full days with people with nothing but what we can carry on our backs. We are forced to learn about each other, simply because there was nothing else to do. We hiked together, talked together, and prayed together. And it was beautiful.
The thing is, I never would have known those people the same way that I do now if I had not gone on WalkAbout with them.
Now obviously we cannot go to the mountains with everyone we know and completely abandon all technology. That is not realistic. But the WalkAbout experience taught me about the importance of abandoning technology for an evening, or however long, in order to truly build a relationship with someone. We must learn how to disconnect from the technological realm in order to live a healthy and realistic life filled with true community.