Lost from our family in their phones

I received an email from a mom last week, saying: “Our home has become entangled in technology and I wanted some advice. My teenage girls we seem to have lost from our family in their phones and I find myself at 47 years old to be nearly as much of an addict as they. Although I’d say that my reasons for being at a screen are more serious than theirs. But are we really any different? I find myself living outside my home in a virtual life and it’s harder and harder to get back. I hate that I feel like it’s just the way it is. I just give in and rationalize. I know it’s not right…”

Last weekend, I was reading an article on marriage and family life that referenced the below quote from Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. Then on Monday I was joking with a young man about how out of touch I was with the seemingly infinite conversations sounding in the ethereal digital world of social media, and then he said with grave seriousness, “Yeah, and then there’s how out of touch I am with the real world around me. I think mine’s worse than yours.”  And THEN on Tuesday someone sent me a YouTube parody that seemed to form a complete set.

So, with no attempt at commentary, I will just share the quote and the video.

Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.

True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise. — Pope Francis

This entry was posted in Family.

13 comments on “Lost from our family in their phones

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hello! (waves hand above head) Compulsive internet checker right over here!

    Tom, as you know from previous conversations, this is a MASSIVE struggle with me. Ugh! One that I manage to get under control and then slip into complacency thinking, Oh, I got this, I’m fine… As of late, as I’ve been trying to work on and publicize more of my writing I’ve been using that as an excuse to check my phone or computer even more frequently, which means frenetically. I’ve actually stopped charging my phone at night for about a week so that I won’t use it in the day, only keeping it on minimum charge for actually taking phone calls (go figure). We currently have only one computer and though it’s killer inconvenient –for legitimate work — I am fighting the urge to get another device because I know that being forced to wait to use the computer is totally a good thing for me, because a good chunk of time I’m not using it for good.

    A couple of embarrassing, revealing examples of late: my six-year old hiding my phone on me so I would play with him (ouch) and my eleven-year old (who was working on math from a pdf on the computer) appalled that I asked to interrupt his work so I could check my email and Facebook…more than once: ”Mom!” he sputtered, “don’t you want me to do my homework?!” (yikes)

    So, definitely, thank you for the reminder and the ping to my conscience.


    • Jennifer says:

      And one more thing…
      I don’t think the answer is to swear off all internet-connectivity. Before we had iPhones, when my kiddies were very little, I got lost in books, the newspaper, and TV just as easily, or in a million other distractions. Besides, I count among some of my closest friends people I only met and know online: like you, for instance! I think it’s a matter of ordering our days and our priorities, and really training ourselves to be aware of how what we’re engaging with when we do pick up a device or sit down to the computer; keeping the long-view as you so beautifully wrote about. How is this an offering of love? And, also reflecting on your recent posts, holding back from constant connection is TOTALLY one of those ‘little things’ that seem futile and insignificant and frankly embarrassing to us (humbling) in their unexpected difficulty, but for which it seems totally suitable for us to valiantly struggle to offer up in the name of great love.

      Okay, that’s all. Time to practice what I’ve preached 🙂

    • Katy says:

      Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your concrete experience of this. It’s very helpful and freeing to know that other people wrestle with the same things! Like, very helpful.

  2. Katy says:

    Tom, thanks for this post. Both that woman’s account and Pope Francis’ words are acutely clear. I have told several people about your family’s “screen free Sunday” (what a great “no” to a deeper “yes”!). From a post of yours awhile back, I happened upon Austin’s “Risking Reality” post: Social Media is Not the Problem. https://riskingreality.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/social-media-is-not-the-problem/

    I have surely been helped by the freedom found in both of your posts (which I have read, yes, online). I’m grateful be shown how it looks to have the internet at the service of humanity, of relationships, and of truth.

    A year ago, I signed off Facebook for good. I have taken absences from other forms of social media. Perhaps the best “fast” I did was for a few weeks this summer, using my phone only for texting and calling. It was so freeing (and my hands, eyes, and neck were much happier!). I took off my Fitbit for a few months as I became entrenched in that. But what I found was that, like Austin, none of these things were the problem. The problem is elsewhere. When I “used my phone only to call and text” I noticed that I became round-the-clock entranced in reading. Which is fine, or better, maybe. But still entranced and in need of some “thing” to occupy me. Something was still off. I have nothing more to say. Or at least, I have found no further help in analyzing “the problem”, because what I need is not to understand the darkness, but to jump out into the light. That takes care of the darkness altogether, and allows me to “get on with it!” (Reference “the man you thought I was” post…still a favorite!!).

    Jesus, blow up (increase) my desires in this life. Jesus, remind me all over again what it is to be human. Jesus, live with me and make my heart sensitive to the way you live. Jesus, heal me from self-made aloneness. Jesus, teach me.

    From wondering if I am missing something, deliver me Jesus.
    From the fear of being alone, deliver me Jesus.
    From the need for an immediate response, deliver me Jesus.
    From the belief that you and I, together, are not enough, deliver me Jesus.
    From frustration with myself for falling again, deliver me Jesus.
    From the belief that deliverance comes from my efforts rather than from You, deliver me Jesus.
    From melancholy and boredom and complacency, deliver me Jesus.
    From thinking that all of this doesn’t matter to you, deliver me Jesus.

    Jesus, that I may live as your child, in deep and simple wonder, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, like Mary, one thing is necessary to “live order”: to be at your side as your friend, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, You are the most real person in every room, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, You feel more deeply, love more deeply, hurt more deeply, and live more fully; free me to live with You.
    Jesus, Your love for me is immediate and real, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, my heart is made for You, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, I can receive your love at all times, free me to live with You.
    Jesus, your gaze upon me reminds me all over again that I am alive when I’m with You, free me to live with You.


    • DismasDancing says:


      Wrote a comment that failed to post for some reason, so will try and recover the thought herein. Wanted to commend you on your absolutely beautiful take on Cardinal Delvalle’s “Litany of Humility”. Given the vicious, UN-Christian comments on Facebook, I quit it almost three years ago. I have also refrained from Twitter or “following” anybody or anything because of the hate-filled responses many allow to see the light of day. The so-called “social” media has become a quite clear window into the souls of many who use them; and, quite frankly, those media give us a very sad picture into the very soul of our society at this point in our history. Without constant prayer to our Blessed Mother, these media will continue to brightly light the road to perdition that the country’s secular world and its media is happily sending us down.

      With your permission, I will print a copy of your beautiful prayer and recite it along with the good Cardinal’s beautiful prayer. I love the invocation: “Free me to live with You!” Apropos following the prayer, “Deliver me, Jesus”.

      Thanks Brother Tom, Jennifer, and Katy for your wisdom today. May you and all of those who visit this site render to our Brother Jesus and our Heavenly Father, generous thanks for all of the blessings with which we are showered every day of our lives. Peace be with you all!


      • Katy says:

        You are very free to share the prayer! Thanks for the kind words.
        Like all inherently amoral things, social media can be taken hostage and used poorly. But when brave souls, who cast all cares to the wind, “go for it”, so much good can come through it too. At the risk of stubborn optimism, I have to believe or trust that people know goodness when they see it, or read it, or hear it. I pray that I have the courage to speak the goodness and vitality of a life exploding with the Holy Spirit when I am
        Inspired to do so. I have to trust that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice, and when kindness, temperance, consideration, vulnerability, and humanity are shared, it inspires more of the same, even online 🙂 And most importantly, hopefully in person. I just hope I’m not blind and naive in hoping so.

      • Katy says:

        Additionally, this Litany of Trust has been rocking me. It’s incredible.


      • Your litany from earlier was, is just incredible. So visceral and honest and open to change and grace. May your words bear fruit in all of our lives! The litany of trust here is also a wow. A terrifying pray, it is. But good terror, tremendum. Thank you!

      • Yes indeed, DD. I will print it as well. Peace be with you in turn!

    • Jennifer says:

      Katy! That prayer! WOWZERS! Like DD, I’ll be praying it. Thank you so much for that. Jesus, free me to live with you! Awesome.

  3. DismasDancing says:

    Tom, just testing to see if this comment disappears like the other one did or if it goes into a queue for approval.

  4. Nos says:

    Wow wow wow + + + + + + + . . . Wonderful beautiful honest and humble comments “small scale” J, Katy ,and D.D. ” from your mouths to GODS ears… May your cross bearing be viewed by many as an acquiesce to GODS will for you and many… P.B.W.Y.A.A. . . Your wisdom and insights help me to understanding much about my faith I would otherwise not comprehend well… as we gather tomorrow at tables of plenty let us think of those who will go without thank you LORD.

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