Life Groups Pastor for James River Church - Tom Matthew
By: Tom Mathew02/26/18

Counteracting A Disconnected Culture

When Dr. Twenge asked a 17-year-old high school student what differentiated his generation from others, the student gave this response without hesitation: “People stay in more often. My generation has lost interest in socializing in person-they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together, and they can just stay at home.” The student’s response sheds light on the new reality facing the world today.  With much of our attention given to phones, social media, and Netflix, people are unquestionably shying away from physically connecting with others. This, in turn, is creating a paradigm shift in our thinking that is both unhealthy and contrary to God’s design for us as relational beings.

We Are More Connected And More Disconnected Then Ever Before

Monitoring the Future has conducted an ongoing study since 1976 of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders examining whether they met with friends every day or nearly every day. From 1976-2000 around 50% of students reported they connected with friends this frequently. However, a significant downward trend started in 2010, and by 2014 only 25% of students reported getting together with friends daily or nearly every day.  As the number has continued decreasing each year, studies like these give us a glimpse into a rapidly growing disconnected culture that is moving people towards isolation.

However, since the beginning of mankind, God designed every person to live in relationship with others.  In Genesis 2 when God created Adam, he quickly proclaimed “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18b), which led to Eve’s creation. When we cut ourselves off from others we miss out on the life-giving relationships God intended for us.  In knowing the direction our culture is headed, here are a few ways to offset the new relational norm:

1. Avoid The Social Media Blackhole

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so powerfully, not even light can escape. Social media may not be that intense, but it can feel that way when you open Facebook or Instagram and keep scrolling for hours on end.  The Public Library of Science conducted a study that showed adults check their phones an average of eighty-five times a day! Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. While a case can certainly be argued for the positive use of social media, it often produces the opposite result. Studies have found social media usage to be directly tied to feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and depression. The more time you spend trapped on social media the more your mental, emotional, and spiritual health deteriorates. The solution to this problem is simple…take a break! Spend a few days away from all your social media outlets.  You will be surprised at how positively this will affect your mood, health, and relationships! Cultivate a healthy relationship with social media, but spend even more time growing socially, mentally, and spiritually.

2. Leave The House

As we saw earlier, staying at home is becoming very common. This is more and more true for both students and adults alike. Why go to the movie theater with friends when you can stream a movie to your room and watch it in your pajamas? People are becoming anchored to their homes because they can get everything done through the use of technology. You can deposit checks with a snap of a picture, buy anything you need online, and even have your groceries delivered directly to your doorstep. Comfort and convenience are replacing quality time devoted to building relationships. It’s important to break this cycle and create intentional time to go out with friends and family members. According to Psychology Today, a change of scenery can drastically affect productivity, reduce stress and cause you to change habits. Be deliberate about planning to leave the house and spend quality time with those in your life.

 3. Get Plugged Into A Church

Online campuses are a new avenue for ministry in the 21st-century church. It provides an incredible opportunity to minister to those who don’t have transportation, are traveling, or just feeling under the weather.  As well, it gives you the ability to minister to people around the world.  While online campuses are excellent, it’s important to remember that watching online should not become a substitute for going to church. Being at church is where connections are made and relationships are built. Reports from both Gallup and Harvard Health Publishing have shown that attending church increases positive emotions and even leads to living longer. Whether you are a Christian or not, it is essential to be connected to a local church. Make a conscious effort to get involved by joining a small group, volunteering, and going to church events.

It is critical for us to recognize the importance of living in community and relationship with others. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” As you develop new friendships and build on existing ones, you counter the new norm and bridge the gap of disconnectedness in our culture. You never know who God has waiting in your path to encourage you or be encouraged by you.