You and I have both said it before: “Our world sure is changing fast.” Although it sounds cliché, it doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Societal and cultural change is happening faster than people can adjust to it.
I believe people have basic needs, regardless of what generation they are from. I also believe, however, that we must find healthy ways to meet those needs, or we can be victims in our society. Case in point: we’ve all seen people trapped in addictive behavior like alcohol or drugs just to deal with loneliness or depression. So—let me suggest some changes I see in our culture that should trigger us to reflect on how we are currently satisfying our basic needs.
1. The Internet has be come the new TV.
When I was growing up, my family stopped what we were doing every Sunday night to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney.” We popped popcorn and sat around the “tube” together as a group. It’s one of my fondest memories. Today, more kids spend time on the Internet than they do television. Often, it’s alone instead of with family. In a recent survey, kids placed “time with family” high on a list of desires, but they don’t know how to do it. How are you utilizing technology to get more time together in your home?
2. Starbucks has replaced the front porch.
My friend Len Sweet suggested this a few years ago. Decades ago, folks would sit out on their front porch in the evening, lemonade in hand, talking to friends who may be outside. Today, fewer houses even have a front porch to sit on, but we still have the need to connect emotionally with others. So, Starbucks came along twenty years ago and meets that need. Humans long for a sense of community. We now pay loads of money for a paper cup of coffee—to have a front porch conversation. How and where are you meeting this need in your life?
3. Facebook is the new “neighborhood”
This year, Facebook surpassed 550 million users. That’s one in twelve people in the world. Nearly 81% of people surveyed use it daily. Facebook has made connecting with friends easy—but it’s also made us lazy, relationally. It takes so little work to say something. (Perhaps no emotion.) Unlike my neighborhood growing up, few people talk regularly to those who live near them; sometimes we don’t really even know our neighbors. Instead, we post comments on a “wall” electronically. How do you cultivate relationships with your “neighbors”?
4. Portable devices are replacing the PC.
Get ready. This shift is happening right before our eyes. More people are using their cell phone or other portable devices (iPads, Kindle, etc.) to get their information than their personal computer or laptop. They want news, information and updates to be portable and in their hands 24/7. We want information within seconds, not minutes. Businesses, churches and organizations that want to stay in touch with their people had better learn from this shift and adjust. How are you positioning your message in short bits for portable devices? Further, how are you cultivating the virtue of patience in this instant world?
5. Texting has replaced phone calls.
I don’t need to tell you this. Fewer and fewer students make phone calls today, unless their parents require them to do so. Instead, the average teen sends over 3,000 texts each month. (Do the math—that’s about 100 texts a day). It’s quick. It’s easy. It requires little to no emotional expense. Unfortunately, it’s caused a tangible drop in our people skills. Once again, we get lazy. Kids react, confront, gossip and break up with girlfriends on a screen because they don’t have the backbone to do it in person. How are you developing people skills in yourself and your students?
6. Twitter is the new “word of mouth.”
I find myself wondering these days: what did we do before Twitter? The answer is—we did without all the information we consume today. What we had was “word of mouth.” Folks got on the phone or met around the water cooler and shared their latest thoughts, feelings and updates organically. It was an actual conversation and an authentic relationship. We still need those, but technology allows us more of them than ever—making us a superficial. How are you cultivating authentic relationships in your life?
7. Google has replaced mentors.
When I was growing up, I met with mentors when I had questions. I remember asking older leaders if they’d be willing to meet with me and share their wisdom. Today, mentors take too long to schedule and require both time and relationship skills. We have a Google reflex—and want answers right now. Wait is a four-letter word. Plus, different generations intimidate each other. We prefer to use technology, which requires less effort. How can you foster inter-generational relationships for the purpose of developing young leaders?
Have you stopped to assess your personal needs? How about the kids around you who may not even be aware of their human needs? Are those needs being met in a healthy, genuine way? Or, are we satisfying real needs in artificial ways that will one day lead to unhealthy or addictive behavior? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics!