We all know what’s been happening in our society lately:
we’re becoming more and more plugged in, while at the same time more tuned
out. We’re eating dinner with our family, but we’re looking at our
iPad. We’re checking messages while we’re in meetings. We
talk on our cell phones while we drive, and yes, we text then, too. To
make a generalization, the younger we are, the more important it is for us
to be perpetually connected: to Facebook, Twitter, and other social
websites, so that in many ways our interpersonal interactions are….well,
kind of impersonal. Face to face is rare. Uninterrupted face
time is even rarer.
In “Disconnect,” the tragedy of our peculiar form of isolation is
all too apparent. A busy lawyer spends most of his time at home
talking on his cell phone about work, which means he pretty well ignores his
teenage kids. Not to mention his wife, but at least he talks to her in
between phone calls. The kids are in their rooms with the iPods
blasting in their ears, online with their friends. His quiet,
sensitive adolescent son doesn’t even realize he’s being cyber-bullied,
until his painful embarrassment literally spreads through the whole school.
Another young teenager, whose Mom has died but whose Dad is always
preoccupied with work, wears a smug, superior smirk just because he is so
insecure, and gets into the anonymous online bullying because he’s so
starved for affection that it almost feels like personal attention.
Another young teenager, finding himself without much parental support
or involvement, drifts toward a happy household of other unattached peers
that’s presided over by a hard-edged, vigilant young man who shows them
all how to make money on websites. With sex cams. Nobody really
thinks there’s anything wrong with it. Everybody’s getting what
they want, and nobody’s hurt, right? But when a thirty-something
investigative reporter stumbles on the local sex trade, she’s just
isolated and lonely enough to be tempted herself, as well as revel in being
the whistle-blower. But you can’t have it both ways.
A teenage girl is going through some terrible family tragedy, and
she’s telling her gum-popping friends about it in the school lunchroom,
and suddenly one of them interrupts because she’s just received a text
from a boy about a date, and she wants to know what everyone else at the
table thinks, not even considering the inconsiderateness. Attention
span is seriously compromised. Emotional empathy is difficult to find.
It’s all about what’s on the screen in front of you right now.
A husband and wife are struggling in their marriage, and not just
because they lost a baby. He’s got an online gambling problem which
he’s kept hidden from her. She’s gotten interested in someone she met in
a chat room on her laptop, just because this anonymous sympathizer seemed to
be more….well, available. Their sudden identity theft adds to their
financial burden; it happens so frequently that law enforcement is
overwhelmed with complaints, and there’s nobody to really pursue it.
So what happens if the victimized couple decides to take matters into their
“Disconnect” is the story of our times, and how, ironically, the
more electronically committed we are, the more we are disconnected:
not only with others, but even with ourselves. In light of this
frantic emotional emptiness, does anybody here mention that the faith,
fellowship, values, and perspective which church membership might provide
could help supply the very things people are so hungry for, but don’t know
it? Of course not. Too outdated. Too old school.
Isn’t it ironic?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,