The Campaign to End Social Surrogates
I recently read this article about how most millennials are dropping out of church, and how at the same time we are getting more and more lonely. I can absolutely understand why people are attending church less and less, but I think we need to make more of an effort to engage socially. If we don't it is going to hurt us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Honestly it already is. Social connection and support is not a luxury. It is a human need.
Sometimes when we are alone in the house, we get the impulse to want to switch on the TV...but not because we want to watch anything on TV. We just want to hear other human voices. It makes me think of all the people in the world right now who have the TV on in the background, even when they aren't watching it. Why? Because it takes away that uncomfortable silence. It makes us feel less alone. It makes us forget that no one is coming over to spend time with us and be with us.
In so many other cultures and in times past, neighbors, family and friends come and go to one another's homes all the time. This is how life was for thousands of years in tribal society and before our lives were dominated by screens. Just read this article about Ikaria and what a healthy culture looks like; a culture where people consistently live past 100. Social support is integral to their way of life. In fact the happiest countries in the world consistently rate high in social support.
As humans we are meant to be interacting with each other face to face all the time, sharing meals and sharing our lives together. For thousands of years we have gathered to sing, dance, worship, tell stories and feast together. But more and more we turn to our TVs, computers, and phones instead. I love video games, shows and movies just as much as the next person, but we can't let them replace our relationships. It's so easy to just put on the TV, so much easier than interacting with actual flesh and blood people. But it's fake. It makes us feel like we are part of the lives of the characters in our shows, but we are not. When media is used to replace relationships, it is a kind of pornography. It is a social surrogate. We are not meeting our need for real connection.
So I think that we need some sort of campaign or something, to try to reverse this dangerous direction many of us are heading in. We need to make community a priority and realize it is not a luxury. Our relationships are what matter in life. If we don't make them a priority it is only a matter of time before we are consumed with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Our screens make us feel better for a little while, but they can never give us what real human relationships can: a sense of love and connection, the chance to be seen and heard, to feel that we are part of each other's lives, a part of a community that is larger than ourselves. That is what we are meant for.