Weekly Bulletin

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Recently I have mentioned on more than one occasion that the use of the smartphone can keep us from developing our social skills, especially with the younger generation. In the December 28, 2018, issue of the Caller-Times a letter written by Zach Bauder, a junior at Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington, was published. I want to share that letter with you.

“I’m a high school junior and I say spend less time on your smartphone”

There are two types of happiness in this world: pnes that last and ones that don’t. Either they are enjoyed momentarily, like a candy bar or spending time on your smartphone, or they are long-lasting, like the relationships you have with someone you love, or a passion that motivated you to get out of bed in the morning. Take the example of smartphones, introduced recently to most Americans, but to me, a Gen Z kid, something that has always been an integral part of my life. Not only do smartphones bring momentary satisfaction, but they also can add to the chaos and disorder in life, potentially destroying anything meaningful. NNow, don’t get me wrong, smartphones are great. I have access to the collective knowledge of generations, readily available anytime in the palm of my hand.

When I was 11, my mom got a smartphone. At first, the idea of touch-screen technology was foreign to me. But gradually I became accustomed to this new technology. Fellow classmates got phones, too, and informed me of the newest and coolest apps. After hearing of their seemingly joyous experiences, I would go home to see for myself what they were talking about. Some of these games weren’t of interest to me, but others transfixed me for hours at a time.

This got much worse when I was in seventh grade. My dad bought me a Samsung tablet, and over the summer I played video games every day. The following Christmas, I got a smartphone. I was able to effortlessly entertain myself whenever I wanted. My phone followed me wherever I went, and I began to think that I couldn’t live without it. I became reliant on it for everything in my life from entertainment to self esteem and validation. My battle with technology was a losing one.

That was until I decided that I had had enough. I was tired of competing with other people I didn’t care about on social media, and I was fed up how my spirit was drained in correlation with the battery in my phone. I decided to prioritize schoolwork, friends and family, and sleep. Although I did not entirely commit and stand firm in my priorities, I got a glimpse of what real happiness was. I grew as a person and was able to have a little more balance in my life.

I am not the only one who has had problems with technology. A study done by the American Psychological Association assessed the mental health of eight, 10th and 12th graders from 1991 to 2016. They found that in 2o12, “psychological well-being” suddenly decreased, and that teenagers who spent more time on screens and less with things that didn’t have a screen had lower psychological well-being. I can confirm this, and take it a little further. Kids my age (15,16,17) are depressed and anxious. Many are suicidal, angry and unhappy.

 Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean, a tool that has been used throughout history to make ethical decisions in life, emphasizes the importance of balance, the average between extremes. Using this, I can gather that you should neither stay away from technology not let it dictate your life. Have a little balance in your life. Only then will you truly be happy.

I wanted to share this with you because I am becoming more and more concerned about our losing our abilities to be present to each other and also because this letter was written by a teenager. You know what they say — if you want to know something about technology, ask a teenager! I am troubled when I see people on their phones or tablets when there are living, breathing people sitting next to them or across the table. I am more trouble when I see parents handing their children a smartphone to keep them occupied instead of letting them interact with other children. We are losing our ability to communicate and interact with each other. Relationship problems develop when we cannot communicate with each other!

Let me encourage you, old or young, to do a little self checking and see how much time you spend on the smartphone and how much time to you give to speaking with a living person. As we approach Lent, this could be something for us to use as a Lenten Reflection!

I love you,

Msgr. Larry