Friar SAvio Manavalan Pastor of souls - St. Joseph University Parish
A couple of months back, I talked with one of our parishioners, and somehow our discussion ended up in this subject, “Living Disconnected in this Connected World”. Even though we have a general tendency to blame our younger generation on the issues related to this kind of “#connectedness”, the sad reality is that irrespective of age, we are all under the “#influence” in our life.
Human beings are ‘social beings’. However, the over the influence of technology is transforming us into a ‘Social-media being.’ Now the studies show that our younger generation is more comfortable with virtual reality than on an interpersonal and physical level. They feel more comfortable and prefer to talk to Alexa, Siri, or Google instead of having a real conversation with someone, even to their own parents.
Looking back to our relationships, the world has shrunk to screen time rather than inter-personal time. Social media and technology are not evil. They are a great help and are the only possible way to interact and communicate with our relatives and friends who are far away, especially amid the pandemic. But observing our own family and friends circle who are close by, how much quality time we spend with them personally not using a virtual screen? Like our youngsters, the grownups are also kind of hiding behind screen and text messaging, finding the excuse of being convenient in our busy schedule. I don’t want you to think that I am a technology or social media hater. I love it and use it a lot too. With this in mind, I will share with you a story:
When I was back in India, it has been several months since I lost my grandma, and I thought it was going to be normal to visit home because of two busy months and the grand celebration of Christmas. These past months we had Grandma’s and grandpa’s pictures and videos shared, the memories of good times we all spent together among the family through social media. But the moment I entered our home, I felt that there was a difference, felt the void, and realized that there would be an unpatchable void, one that only my grandmother could fill, forever in my life. I really understood the value of her presence in my life after I lost her.
As a result, my vacation days were spent with my mom and dad. Even though I had to travel to see my friars, extended family, and friends, I tried my best to come back home for dinner with my parents except for a few days. I was able to spend real in-person time with them both, to hear them, their life being retired, which generally does not come as a subject in our overseas phone conversations or skyping. I was able to understand their happiness and worries. Now, I know what to ask about when I call them, and I am sure it’s time I spend with my parents helped me to realize how important physical and disconnect time is for each of us. I can take it as a lesson in my life regarding all my relationships.
When I reflect on the pandemic, I can relate more to disconnectedness and the need to reconnect. This pandemic has been an opportunity to think in a serious way. How we have lost the connection with God and our brothers and sisters? Through prayer, we should ask God to ratify our healthy relationships and overcome the obstacles in the relationships that are struggling or are disconnected. The real reflection needed is to realize how far and deep we have been disconnected. Occasionally in our busy lives, we fail to recognize that we have disconnected from God and others. We are not supposed to live indifferently with God or with others.
As human beings, we all have differences in ideas and difficulties in opinion with others. We all may have a problematic past where we have made absolutely bad decisions, which might have made our life and others miserable. Maybe we are struggling to get over it but again being dragged down by its impacts and memories. This is when we have to remember about God, who is ready to embrace us back as His sons and daughters not counting on our merits but His mercy. We must allow ourselves to know Him better and get immersed in his love. We need to believe He can do wonders in our lives and bring healing in our relationships. Being reconnected to God will allow our hearts to be reconnected with our brothers and sisters, which will help deliver a newness into our brokenness. In this pandemic situation, social media has helped us connect virtually, but we are still physically disconnected. This is a big difference.
Let’s pray for that grace during this world-wide pandemic by calling for a “re-connectedness” in all our relationships. We pray for God to work in our lives to bring about more profound love and connection to our fellow brothers and sisters, both now where possible, and whenever the pandemic has ended.