Posted tagged ‘social media’

The Wisdom of Moderation

January 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 9, 2018

                                         

Two of Apple’s largest stockholders are asking the company to help curb the digital addiction of children and youth. A ripple effect of the iPhone’s popularity, as well as SnapChat, texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media, has been the increasing amount of time the younger generation is “hooked” on their digital devices.

At the middle school that I substitute teach and coach at digital devices are part of the educational tool shed. Students are told to get online on their devices and sign in at Google Classroom for the reading assignment or questions to answer as they read. Research gets done at their desk on their iPhone.

Last spring, however, I experienced the other side of the digital addiction age. Several eighth graders focused on their iPhones when they were to be reading a textbook assignment. They attempted to keep their devices hidden from sight, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I recognize that sneaky look from my days of trying to hide cheat sheets in high school Spanish class.

Social media and iPhones are just the latest of a long, long line of products and vices that grow to the point of being obsessions and addictions. The average American teenager receives his/her first iPhone at the age of 10 and spends four and a half hours a day using it, not counting texts and phone calls. Recent research is connecting the risk of teen suicide with the amount of time teens spend using their digital devices. Adolescents who spend several hours a day using their digital devices tend to feel more isolated and depressed. Teens that spend less than two hours a day on their devices tend to be happier.

We should not be surprised at the negative implications of over-consumption. It fits with the scheme of things. A healthy life- physical, spiritual, emotional, mental- has balance to it. An unhealthy life is often out of balance in some way or several ways.

Several years ago I discovered Chinese buffets. I’d go there for lunch and gorge myself. The afternoon was spent feeling lousy, and I added several pounds to my body weight. I finally wised up and swore them off. I now have not been to a Chinese buffet in about ten years and, I don’t want to say it is the only reason but, my cholesterol has dropped.

There’s a great proverbs of Solomon’s that says this, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)

When we become obsessed we become vulnerable. We see in our culture today that obsessions come in different forms and in various venues. There’s greed, drunkenness, gluttony, sexual addiction, workaholic-ism, laziness, and on and on. Any obsession leads to a “broken wall’ where some kind of enemy or evil can enter in.

Pretty much anything in our life is to be practiced, consumed, or done in moderation. There is wisdom in moderation, and there is usually trouble in excessiveness.

It will be interesting to see how Apple and social media companies respond to the request about digital addiction. Apple may simply see it as a way to develop a new product designed for adolescents. In essence, it could be a new way to make money for them. The real question is what will the social media companies do that rely on consumption, exposure, and screen time to make their profits?

Companies, also, more often than not, have no self-control!

Adventures In Substitute Teaching: The Cell Phones

April 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             April 30, 2017

           

I was driving to school last week for a day of substitute teaching. I’m like an educational handyman…science class one day, language arts the next, physical education the day after, and social studies right before those. On this day I was headed for another day of language arts. As I approached the school I noticed one student crossing the street while looking at his cell phone. My first thought was “That kid could get hit and he wouldn’t even know it!” My second thought was “What is so urgent that it needs to be texted by a middle school kid at 7:00 in the morning as he’s crossing the street in heavy traffic?”

I’ve noticed it quite often. Students walking to school with their eyes focused on their cell phones. Cell phones have become what could best to described as “technological alcohol!” They are tech crack! People can’t live without them, but more than that, they can’t live without them for the next five minutes.

The school I mostly substitute teach at has a program called “Face Up/Face Down.” Students know that “face down” time means their devices are face down on their desks. When it’s ‘face up” time they can use their devices to look up information for class assignments or view relevant videos connected to their study focus.

But, you guessed it, the addiction to their electronic devices has resulted in “sneakiness” as a developed student skill. One young lady was sitting at her desk with her backpack in her lap trying to look studious whenever I looked at her. But I wasn’t born yesterday. Her backpack was in her lap, for crying out loud! I knew she was using the backpack to shield her cell phone from view. I let it slide for a few minutes and then in one practiced move she simultaneously put her backpack on the floor and slid her cell phone into her pocket. She asked if she could go to the restroom, and I said yes. In essence, she probably had to text someone about where they were going to sit at lunchtime in the cafeteria. When she came back and started to place her backpack on her lap again I told her to put her cell phone away…that, even though I’m old I’m not entirely clueless. I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck! In fact, I was once gifted in the art of sneakiness!

In a different class I confiscated three cell phones- placed them on the teacher’s desk for the rest of class- because one was posting on Facebook and two others were playing video games. Here’s the thing about a student using his cell phone to play a video game in class! Others become interested in watching him play the game. There becomes this little audience behind the student! It’s not bad behavior, just behavior that students know is not allowed in class.

The two students who were playing video games ratted out the girl who was posting on Facebook. I hadn’t noticed her!

A study conducted by the psychology department of UCLA on a group of sixth graders concluded that students who were deprived of all digital media for a few days did much better in recognizing emotions than students who were allowed access of digital media. One researcher made the comment that a student can’t learn emotional cues from a screen like he can from face-to-face interaction.

Digital media has its benefits, but, like anything that is consumed too much, it has become destructive. It’s like Lay’s Potato Chips…you can’t eat just one…and suddenly you real;ize that half the bag is gone! MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle agrees with how our digital addiction effects other things. In her 2015 book Reclaiming Conversation she makes the argument that cell phones are greatly affecting people’s ability to have deep conversations. She says that 89% of Americans took out a cell phone during their last social interaction, and 82% say that it resulted in a deteriorating of the conversation they were in.

A friend of mine who manages a hair salon told me that she instituted a digital devices ban for her employees when they are working. She had noticed that their focus wasn’t on the customer entering the store, but rather on their cell phones. They fought her tooth and nail on the ban, but now are realizing how much more interaction they are having with the person whose business they need in order for the store to stay in business and continue handing them pay checks.

Back to middle school! Let me tell you! Students think that substitute teachers are essentially clueless and won’t pick up on their device activity. But you know something? I’ve been there many, many years ago. Oh, it wasn’t a cell phone used in forbidden ways, but rather “the passing of notes” in class. I could pass notes with the best of them and not be discovered. Back in the day this Wolfe was a sly fox!

Seventh Grade Peer Pressure…Er…Influence!

April 8, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                April 8, 2017

                                 

I substitute taught Health class for 7th graders one day this past week. There is something about 7th grade that resonates with me. Maybe it’s because it was such an awkward year for me back in…1967! Lord, help me! That means that this is the 50th anniversary of my 7th grade year! (I should make a Chef Boyardee pizza tonight and relive the memories!)

In the Health class we talked about peer pressure. Or, put in a more positive term, peer influence! I don’t know about the students, but I enjoyed it. The discussion was interesting, as we identified different ways our peers influence us…positive and negative. I don’t remember “drugs” as being one of the conversation pieces when I was in 7th grade, but kids today are feeling the pressure to experiment.

Social media was not a temptation back in ’67! We passed notes that shared information like “Bobby wants Jenny to be his girlfriend”, or “Fred told Mr. Smith he was full of crap and he’s in the principal’s office now!” That was our non-verbal information system. 7th graders today are a little more sophisticated, and becoming wiser. They are increasingly knowledgeable about the advantages and dangers of social media. They know about SnapChat and texting, have heard the situations involving sexting, and the ripple effects of comments that people have made on Facebook.

The encouraging thing for me was that many of them identified the peer group they “hang around with” as being the most important decision. Wise choices flow much easier from a student who has friends who also make wise choices.

That is one factor that has not changed in fifty years. I remember one of the friends I had back in my Williamstown, West Virginia 7th Grade year was a boy who was fun to be around, but prone to “doing stupid!” I laughed a lot around him, but “did stupid” a couple of times when I was with him. Like when one of our teachers heard him utter a curse word and told him to watch his language. As she continued down the sidewalk from the school I hollered after her, “What are you going to do about it, you old bag?”

Dumb, dumb, dumb! Five minutes later I was in the principal’s office along with my cussing sidekick. That was back in the days when principal’s still had paddles in easy to retrieve places in their offices.

I went from dumb, dumb, dumb to my butt being numb, numb, numb!

I tended to make unwise decisions when I was with my cussing friend. Our family moved a year later to a new town, and as an 8th grader I hooked up with two friends who tended to make wiser choices, Terry Kopchak and Mike Bowman. Funny…as I think back on it now I realize I never saw the inside of the principal’s office that year!

Two years later we moved again and I connected with another positive peer group of Mike “Fairboy” Fairchild, Tommy Douglas, and Dave “Hugo” Hughes. They rescued me from a couple of other guys who tended to “do stupid” and seemed cool! Fairboy and Hugo were both groomsmen in my wedding, and I officiated the wedding ceremonies of Dave and Robin, and Mike and Carol. I’m increasingly thankful for these friends who rowed the boat with me in positive directions.

Most 7th graders today understand the positive influences of their peer group and the negative peer pressure of those who like to live dangerously. They know that we all make bad choices and dumb decisions, but also are acutely aware of the fact that a positive peer group will tend to minimize the number of poor decisions.

I asked the class the question “If you could put percentages on how much of the peer pressure you experience is negative and how much is positive what would be your assessment?” Several of them said it was 50-50, but one wise and intelligent young lady said 90-10! I assumed she was saying that 90% of the peer pressure she experienced was negative, so I asked her to explain her 90-10 assessment. That’s when she indicated that the 90% was positive, and it came down to the friends she hangs around with. I loved her simple solution: “If your friends tend to make stupid choices you need to get some new friends!”

Put another way, if your friend is very familiar with the furnishings in the principal’s office…and even has his name on one of the chairs…you need a new friend! Don’t abandon him, but don’t do a Friday night sleepover at his house either!

The Dangers of Freely Thinking

October 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 12, 2016

                

With four weeks until the election it seems that more stuff is being thrown back and forth than a high school cafeteria food fight. Social media, such as I’m using, spreads the drama quickly. Every day we are bombarded by new revelations about the past. Accusations meant to discredit and humiliate are the norm. How candidates deal with health care, foreign policy, education, and all the other issues has been pushed back to the end of the program guide. I have a hard time remembering where each candidate stands on such issues in the midst of email scandals and locker room comments.

There are Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Johnson supporters, Stein supporters, a growing number of people who keep hoping that a knight in shining armor will ride on to the scene in the nick of time, and still others who are praying that Jesus returns before November 8!

This may be an election where there are more people a little embarrassed about who they finally choose to vote for than those who proudly proclaim who it is they support.

What I’ve also noticed is the danger of freely thinking. In the past few days my college alma mater, a small Christian college in Elgin, Illinois called Judson University, has had people throwing Facebook comments back and forth about the fact that Dr, Ben Carson is scheduled to speak on campus in the spring. Some of the words written had the commentator reaching down into the gutter and getting a handful of that really disgusting and foul-smelling mud and flinging it towards the school’s administration. How could an educational institution allow someone to come and speak who has been supportive of Donald Trump?

I remember a number of years ago when colleges fought the fights of being places of free thinking. There is great danger that the winds have changed directions in regards to that. It seems our culture is enamored with hearing what we agree with more than different ideas, and throwing sharp verbal jabs at those who hold other viewpoints.

The election is just the latest of these contentious battlefields. I wish I could say that the followers of Jesus have been different, but alas…

Christians are often the worst! Many of us have mastered “sanctimonious spiritual language” to belittle those who we disagree with. “How can you call yourself a Christian and…” It used to be that you finished the phrase with things like “…drink a Budweiser?” or “…wear a skirt that short?”  Then things changed a little bit and we ended the sentence with issues or life situations like “…say that abortion is okay?” or “say that divorce people can get remarried?”

In recent years it has changed again. Now the accusing question gets completed with words like “…say that you are voting for ______?” or “be willing to even listen to what he/she is saying?”

In a time when the church could be a safe place to express different opinions it has taken on the appearance of political preferences. There’s more free thinking happening at Starbucks than the coffee fellowship time in most churches.

What would Jesus do? I’m not sure, but many of us are hoping that he will come back and tell us real, real, real soon!

Sharing My Opinion

September 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                September 22, 2016

                                  

I received an email from Time magazine yesterday. They want my opinion on different things! They must have received a rumor that I’m opinionated and have opinions to offer on anything and everything…from the election to the price of avocados to the end of “Mike and Molly.” It’s nice to know that someone values what I’m thinking.

Sharing opinions is a risky business these days. Facebook opinions have become the Jerry Springer Show of social media. People seem to get off sharing their distorted anger, while others get even more satisfaction at telling them what pathetic losers they are…and then back to you…and then I’ll reach for an even lower comment…and then…

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus had his challengers ready to pounce. Of course, the difference is that Jesus didn’t have opinions, he had the truth. The truth got lampooned, demonized, and criticized. Jesus would have been caricatured on the editorial page every day in some cartoon drawing.

Most of us have a hard time differentiating between the truth and what is simply our opinion. In my annual eye exam my optometrist does one test where two lines gradually come together. That’s how most of us see truth and our opinion. They have become two lines of thought and understanding that we’ve brought together.

And so sharing any opinion seems to be like lighting a fuse on a conversation ready to explode. Some of us like explosions. They seem to ignite us! Others of us shake our heads in disgust and dismay.

Just think about recent opinions that divide us like New England Patriot fans versus…well, everybody else! There’s been the election, National Anthem protests prompted by recent shootings, immigration, health insurance, the cost of Epi-pens, Ryan Lochte, concussion issues in sports, and the legalization of marijuana. Wow! Time could do a couple of issues just on the issues.

And here’s the thing! In our hyper-opinionated culture the thinking seems to be that I must totally agree or totally dis-agree…that I can’t disagree 60% and agree 40%, or admit that there is some truth in the opinion that i don’t agree with. We seem to think that people have to be all in or all out!

I’ve been reading a book entitled Washington’s Circle by David and Jeanne Heidler. What  I’ve been amazed at is the opinionated founding fathers. In today’s terms we would say that they were not all on the same page. They had their opinions about issues, as well as about each other…and they seemed to be able to talk about their differences and, in most cases, come to a consensus of agreement. Perhaps a slower way of communicating helped. In many ways the speed of our interactions these days is a positive, but it has also become a liability. People don’t think before they speak or comment or send a social media post…and then let the fire begin!

A wise person longs for truth and considers the value of their words.

The Ability to Listen…Online!

June 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 27, 2015

                                     

Social media is awesome in so many ways! We can reconnect with people who we haven’t seen or heard from in years. We can see pictures of folk we’ve grown up with…and be able to see how old they look compared to us…compare the amount of gray, if you will, and the size of our waistlines!

And what can be awesome can also be awful! I’ve been amazed at the things that are said online that people wouldn’t dream of saying in person. There’s like an openness to be condescending since Herbie isn’t in the room with me!

People are much more bold online. Or maybe bold isn’t the right word! Maybe it’s more like “boldly insensitive!”

I find that the ability to listen online is an unrecognized but gracious gift. The patience to hold off on giving my two cents worth is invaluable! Some may say that if I hold off then the insensitively bold will dictate the pace of the race.

It seems like Proverbs has a few nuggets of listening gold that need to sink in a little bit.

“The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:14)

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11) 

People are quick to speak online and slow to listen. In the Letter of James in the New Testament he emphasizes the reverse of those two…being quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds a third…”being slow to become angry.”

So before you send that comment that dehumanizes the person you differ with…take your fingers off the keyboard for a few moments and watch a Youtube video of babies laughing or cats playing with dogs. It may be the wise thing to do in a world that is often immensely unwise and unkind.

  

Lost and Found

June 24, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 23, 2014

 

                               

 

My life has been filled with lost opportunities and blessed findings. Once in a while the lost comes back to be found.

Or, better yet, the lost is waiting to be found…like the lost and found box at the middle school that is filled with all kinds of coats, hats, watches, and bracelets. Each was forgotten for a while, left to sit until a stranger found it.

There are people who are a part of our lives who disappear around the margins because we forget, we become disengaged and focused on other things and people. And then, later, when we remember, they are no longer there. Neglect has a way of turning friends into acquaintances, and acquaintances into those that we lose track of.

Social media fabricates an atmosphere of connectedness. We are friends with those that we haven’t seen since high school. We comment on a one sentence post and, for some reason, think we are still connected.

In our culture of instant messaging, ironically, it is easier to be lost.

The answer may not be in how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers we have, but rather in having a few friends that we deeply invest in. we seek to find them deeply. The quality of our relationships is much more valuable than the quantity of our relationships.

I think about my life. Who is it that would be greatly effected if I lost my friendship with them? The list gets whittled down quickly, and it is in that downsized list that I find those that I must not lose.