Sep 042017 4 Responses

One Look That Could Change Everything

The U.S. Government has mandated doctors and nurses stop focusing on their patients during medical exams and has made the patient a voice that is heard while the medical professionals’ eyes are fixated on a computer screen. Of course, this wasn’t the intent of politicians when they mandated digital medical records, but it is the unintended consequence of the law. Doctors spend more time looking at screens than patients.

This switch in the medical profession symbolizes a major transition which has happened in society.

A young couple is on a date. As they sit in the booth across from one another, they progress through the typical dance of a first date, but with added companions–their cell phones. Every date has become a double date in modern society. The couple and their phones weave in and out of interactions.

I step up to the airline counter and hand the agent my passport. With furious typing, she arranges my boarding passes and tags my bags. The only time she looks away from her screen and at me is to make a quick glance to ensure my passport photo resembles my face.

It is take your dad to school day. For an hour I sit and watch my kids learn. Their speed on the screen is impressive. They quickly google a question, check wiki-pedia for another, and finish an assignment with little struggle. If they have a question, the teacher comes alongside them to point them in the right direction. Together they look at the screen to find the answer.

Each scene makes clear an important switch which has happened in modern society:

Screens have replaced people as the centerpiece of human attention. 

We still look people in the eye. Others still hold a place in our attention. But it’s secondary. Not just the average worker, but the average person in American society spends a considerable more amount of time every day looking at a screen than a person.

It’s a development that won’t likely change, but it’s one which desperately needs to be recognized.

  • What is the cost we pay by turning our attention from people to screens?
  • What are some things we can do to compensate for a dwindling amount of human interaction?
  • How can we use technology while still developing meaningful relationships?

While we can’t turn society away from screens and back to people, we must recognize the problem of this transition. We weren’t created to be engaged with a screen. We weren’t made to connect with computers. There is little problem with society using computers, phones, and various screens for production. However, when they become the centerpiece of our lives, we must admit that’s a problem.

The Problem Provides Opportunity

While there are many ramifications of this transition, the first thing that needs to be recognized is the opportunity the switch provides. In a world where eye contact, human connection, and true concern will continue to fade, what will happen to those who intentionally focus on people?

Consider the power of eye contact. Every day, people are being looked at in the eye less and less. What if we intentionally chose differently? Imagine the:

  • ticket agent who did her job on the computer, but took considerable time looking her customer in the eye
  • nurse who found a way to input all her data, but not before her compassionate gaze was truly felt by her sick patient
  • teacher who used technology in powerful ways, but made sure every child saw her eyes seeing theirs every morning
  • young couple who had the wisdom to leave their phones in the car so that they could look each other in eye as they talked to figure out if a true connection was present

Never before has something so under our control (how we use our eyes) offered such opportunity to serve and connect with others. Humanity is made for human connection. As that connection naturally fades, it provides an opporutnity for us to intentionally connect with others.

We can:

See people. While everyone else never even notices others, we can intentionally seek ways to see others…their concerns, needs, gifts, and abilities.

Make them feel seen. Not only can we see them, we can look them in the eye in such a unique way that they know they are seen. It’s one thing to be seen, but something more to feel seen.

Honor them. By putting aside inanimate things for the sake of human things, we bring dignity to one another. When a boss never looks away from his screen when an employee enters his office, he’s communicating, “you don’t matter.” When we push the screen aside in order to look another in the eye, we are saying, “you do matter.”

Society has changed. Maybe it happened with the introduction of the iPhone. Maybe we were already destined for this path when the PC came into being. Either way, at some point over the past few years, the screen has replaced people as the centerpiece of our attention. When we recognize this transition and intentionally choose a different path, we will better our lives and the lives of those around us.

4 Responses to One Look That Could Change Everything

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.