I’ve always admired people who read books on buses. I’m an avid window gazer, so I’m often lost in my thoughts, staring at the scenery going by. And, to be honest, I’ve never been much of a reader. When I see someone reading on a bus, I often think: I should be doing that. There’s something about their apparent habit that is committed to self-growth. Instead of doing nothing, they’re doing something. Something worthwhile.
Earlier this week, I stopped by our IT department for a one-on-one software help session. After the session, the IT employee and I began to make small talk about Macs versus PCs and where we think the future of technology is going. He talked about how he remembers when having a laptop was cutting-edge, and now, laptops are becoming obsolete. Obsolete?! I was surprised by how quickly I became protective of my laptop. “Everything is becoming phones and tablets,” he said. “But what about typing?” I demanded. “People are more interested in consuming these days, not producing,” he replied.
The phenomenon he was referring to is that we have become avid consumers of online … anything: Candy Crush, Farmville, iTunes, surfing the web, viral Youtube videos, Netflix, and anything else we can stream. Most of it is for entertainment. During 20 minutes on a bus ride, Candy Crush can easily replace two chapters of a good book or even producing a good journal entry. That’s not to say there’s no place for entertainment, but I think the IT employee has a good question: Are we consuming more than we’re producing? What are the effects of this?
One of the reasons I gave up Facebook for Lent is because I largely use it as entertainment, not in a strict sense of the word but in an “unwinding during the day” sort of way. I began to wonder if the five- to 20-minute sessions I spend on Facebook could be used more productively. Maybe I could learn something new. Maybe I could unwind with a walk outside. Maybe I could actually call the friend I’ve been playing phone tag with. Maybe I could write something.
Facebook has brought a lot of great thought-provoking materials into my life, and I really do enjoy it. However, this Lent, I’ve been mindful of how much I am bringing into the world, and not simply what I’m ingesting from my screen. What would our world look like if we did less surfing and more creating? Would we be all the better for it? Would our world be better for it?