We Are The Gatekeepers

 

For years, I had been wanting to add to my college curriculum a focus on how technology was adding to the stress load so many students were carrying, how it was distracting them from their studies, impacting their health, and creating a barrier between them and their friends. But I was afraid. Afraid of being seen as out of date. But then life stepped in. In the span of one month, I was made aware of two stories involving two beautiful young girls, inside and out, both fifteen at the time, and both of whom I knew.

The first story involved one of the girls sexting with a boy. He was not her boyfriend, or even a potential boyfriend. This girl had not experienced so much as a kiss, and yet here she was exchanging naked photos of herself and telling worried friends that it was no big deal. The second story involved the second young woman who started a texting relationship with a much older boy that she had met only one time. Early into this exchange, the young man became sexually suggestive and aggressive in his texts to her. At this point, her friend’s sent a text asking him to stop. He responded by texting back that if she told her friends any more about what he was saying, he was going to come find her, and do the most violent act of sexual aggression you could perpetrate on a woman’s body. Despite the advanced nature of this interaction, this girl too had never been so much as kissed. Amidst the horror of this, she dismissed it all by saying that it was not a big deal because it was just a text.

For weeks after hearing this, I was not right. I would spontaneously be overcome by grief and anger. I raged inside. I sobbed whenever I thought of them. I felt frustrated and disempowered.  I believed there there was nothing I could do. Or so I thought. Without knowing what I was doing, I took all of this to my college classes. Because I didn’t know what to do or how to proceed, I started at the beginning. I began by telling them these two stories in great detail. I was very emotional in the telling. It was clear how overwrought I was. And much to my surprise, you could have heard a pin drop that day. The class was riveted, and not because this was news to them. When I asked them if any were shocked, or if this story was new to them, not a single hand was raised. As a matter of fact, I went on to ask this question for a number of semesters in a row to literally hundreds of students, and still, not a single hand went up.

I have come to see now why they were so focused on what I was saying. They were fastened to my horror, my grief, and my anger that the innocence of these two girls and their precious budding sexuality was being squandered without apology, and was even being justified as something that was “no big deal.” And that was when I knew. I knew that for all of their bravado about how great things were, it just wasn’t true. Somewhere down deep they did not feel good either about what was happening. And when they saw my unfiltered reaction, in that moment, they could not deny it. It is so difficult to pierce the illusion around the collective agreement and collusion regarding how all powerful and amazing the technologies are, that it has taken me a long, long time to catch up with the truth. But please know this, all the way into the deepest part of yourself; they are not OK with what is happening, despite what they do or what they say.

In subsequent classes, I went on to tell them about how my family was living and how we were raising our children with little to no technology. I had no idea how they would respond to this, I only knew that an opening had been created, and so I took it. To my great surprise, they broke open too. They spoke of what was not working for them. They spoke of their anxieties in trying to keep up. They spoke of their dissatisfaction with their relationships. They spoke of not being able to sleep at night due to interference from their devices. Later, they came back talking about changes they had made. They taught, and continue to teach me so very much about human nature. They have reminded me about what we all yearn for despite the ways that we get sidetracked. They regularly remind me that the younger generations look to us, despite what they might say or what we might think. They remind me that the human spirit is infinitely creative when it receives the support and the inspiration it requires. They show me regularly just how difficult it is for them to handle this. And they openly and regularly worry about the generations to come.

Something Greater

 

I have been contemplating, practicing and researching conscious use of technology with children for more than 20 years. I have observed and read about all of the many ways that it is changing our children physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally; negative impacts ranging from brain cancer to attention and behavioral problems to impaired memory to social autism, to weight gain, to sleep problems and so much more. As devastating as all of this is, I am noticing something far more destructive; a loss of purpose and meaning. Collectively, we spend more time in front of a screen than the time we put into the exploration and loving expression of who we truly are, why we are here, and where it is that we come from.  What does it mean for our children to grow up in a culture where the biggest, vastest and most ubiquitous daily presence in their life is ever-increasingly a machine? What will it mean for our children who are growing up absorbing the belief that the most powerful presence in their lives emanates from something man-made? While we might not be saying this out loud, no one needs to. Children absorb what it is that we value most. Children take their cues from us about what to orient to in life.

Are we actually going to leave the very unfolding of the human heart and spirit up to a machine? Pause for a moment and reflect deeply on this. Our children need Something Greater to connect to; whether that is God, The Great Mother, The One, All That Is, Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Shiva, a social cause, Nature, or your family. However you experience it, and by whatever name you refer to it, our children need to be in relationship to something more than themselves and their self-indulgent forays into the cyber world. What is it doing to their spirit to have the very essence of their existence reduced down to the number of “likes” they get on Facebook? Or how many friends or followers that have accumulated. Or how many texts they send or receive each day. How does self-absorption and narcissism further humankind and inspire us to reach for our very best? It does not.

Our children require meaning and purpose for their souls to flourish as surely as their bodies require air to live. The steady and depleting diet of screen images along with the amount of time spent there reduces their spiritual life down to a tiny or non-existent corner of their lives. But certainly not the guiding force. Not the orienting direction in their life. What compounds the damage is the importance we, as their primary role models, have put on life in front of a screen; modeling for them that this is the shiniest and most coveted brass ring to reach for, despite what else we might preach about what is most important.

Meaning, purpose and a connection to Something Greater is what holds us through all of life’s ups and downs. It is what uplifts us and carries us further than we could ever go on our own. This is what will support our children when life challenges, fails and disappoints them. Experiences of Presence are often subtle, paling in comparison to the yelling and demands of the devices. Spirit is never pushy, quick, or loud in the ways of the machines. And because the satisfactions of the devices are so immediate and compelling while asking simultaneously so little, how will this prepare our children for a life lived in Connection?

Ultimately, will it turn out to be progressive of us, or in the best interest of humankind, for the dominating cultural attitude to be that man and his accomplishments are the greatest show on earth? The technologies are amplifying this ignorant and ultimately erroneous belief in far-reaching and destructive ways. What will it do to our children for them to grow up believing that they are the most powerful force in the Universe? How will arrogance, self-absorption and our own self-importance further the hopes, dreams and the very best of our species? How will disconnection from Source play out in our relationship to caring for and about others and the planet? If our children, through years of experience with being in control of all that they touch, come to believe that they are the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient ones, how will they live? And then, how will be able to live together?

All of our greatest and most shining exemplars are those human beings who submitted to something beyond themselves. At its best, the human experience includes honoring, respecting and submitting to something more powerful than yourself. To give them the impression that we as people are in control of everything, that it is all just a click or a swipe away, is to rob them of their true place in the order of things. Watch what it is that lights you up in the presence of your children. Watch what you talk about most. Watch where you spend the majority of your time, energy and money. Do you marvel as much in the Infinite as you do the man-made?

Left To Their Own Devices

 

We need heroes and heroines right now. More than ever. Why? Because this culture does not value or protect its young. This culture does not properly grasp the protected status children require to grow naturally, healthfully and well. It is evident in how many of them go hungry. It is noticeable in how many of our young people suffer from disorders that have toxic environmental links perpetrated by corporations seeking to make a profit. It is evident in the way our children’s childhoods have become overly commercialized and consumer-oriented. It is apparent and appalling in the way we sanction food that is grown with toxins, harmful modifications and refined to the point of being dangerous. It is manifest in how many of our children are on unprecedented amounts of medications. It displays itself in how many of our kids are depressed, stressed and anxious. It shows in how little we pay and respect teachers, and how little real progress ever happens in education. It reveals itself around the multi-billion dollar amounts always available for the defense budget, while schools continue to be level-funded year after year despite increases to the cost of living, and to the growing demands that schools must meet in terms of student needs. And it is palpable in the way we allow our children to see things and spend their days in ways that rob them of their innocence, vitality and inner freedom.

I have yet to meet a parent who in some way is not worried about how the technologies are using our children. Why is it then that we are not organizing around this one? Why are we not refusing to allow this to continue? Why are we not carving out the time and the actions necessary to address our concerns? We are so schizophrenic around the technologies in the truest sense of that word, i.e. to be of a split mind. Through one side of our mouths we lament what is happening, and through the other side we live as if our devices are valued family members who get the preferred seat at the table. Or worse yet, we allow that family member that we do not want around our kids, to live with us nonetheless.

Likely, parents everywhere, and at all times, have struggled with some version of their children getting into something, or being exposed to, what we would most want them to avoid.  Recently though, the reality of our children getting involved with the wrong thing has exponentially exploded with the advent of the screen technologies. This is alarmingly exemplified by the story I just heard of local teenage girls posting nude pictures of themselves on Instagram, all in the name of body image empowerment. Funny thing is though, as the story goes, only the good-looking girls with the “good bodies” are doing this. And oh, by the way, the political statement is entitled The 100 Day ‘Ho Down. In case you didn’t catch it, it is ‘Ho as in  WHORE. So, young women are exploiting their bodies, referring to themselves as whores, all the while believing that they are taking back the night with this one. Will this be enough for us as the grown-ups to weigh in on? We can refuse to address this in any kind of a meaningful way, but the truth is, it will go on; with or without us.

Parallels

 

I am sometimes asked how it is that I see what I see in terms of the impact that technology is having on us and our children. For the longest time, I did not know. Then, I began writing a book on the downside of technology and kids and found my answer. Here it is from me to you.

The reason I see what I do in terms of the pervasive and all encompassing damage technology’s presence is having on our families, most especially on our children, is because I grew up in addiction. It was what I smelled, tasted, touched and walked through each and every day that I lived with my family of origin. It was the sea that I swam in. I did not question it or think it out of the ordinary. Disconnection and dissatisfaction felt normal to me. It felt like home. 

As a child, I lived with the constant and unspoken reality that something was always in between me and my parents. Something was always in between me and my siblings. And something was always in between me and myself. The long arm of addiction insinuated itself into every single aspect of our lives from what time dinner was, to how we socialized, to what we believed as children, to how we were with one another, and to how we felt about ourselves. Alcohol was more important than people’s feelings. It was more important than love and connection. It was more important than health and well-being. It was more important than honesty and trust. And it was more important than me. Something non-human told us who we were and how to act. It told us how to be with one another and what to value. Sound familiar?

Like any child, I needed my parents to be available to me. And because they were not, I worked very hard to get them to pay attention, especially my father. I tried to catch his eye. And because what I did never worked, I kept trying harder and harder believing that it was my fault. Believing that if I could just do or say the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way then he would want me. Deep down it felt like there just had to be some dark and awful thing about me that was keeping him from wanting a better connection with me. Because he was my father, I believed him when  he told me I was needing and wanting the wrong things. He just had to be right. He was the parent, the one in charge. The one who knew how things worked in the world. The one who was supposed to know how to pay attention to their own kid as well as the one who was never supposed to be the source of their sadness and disconnect. Throughout it all, I learned how to do for myself, how to accept harmful and sub par substitutes and how to go without what I needed most because what I really needed was not available.

Back then, when I was sensing and saying that something was off, nobody wanted to hear it. For them to hear would be to admit that there was a problem, and to admit that there was a problem would be to recognize that something must change, and then actually change. Back then, I was the one saying something is wrong, terribly, terribly wrong. And I am saying it again here. Now. Please God that we do not have to hit a collective bottom before we choose to recognize what is happening to us. Please God that we have a low tolerance for allowing machines to get in between us and our loved ones. Please God that we do not leave our children believing that an inanimate object is more important than them. Back then I was an irritant, a “trouble-maker.” Today, I say, “yes,” it is irritating and inconvenient to hear that the thing that you have made your god is squeezing the life out of you and your family.  As bothersome and upsetting as this may be to hear and to recognize, it is still true nonetheless.

Looking back, I see that worse than any emotional neglect I experienced, were the daily choices I had to make; go with the program and have a father who tolerated me being around, or break from what I was being sold and be true to myself, and therefore left without. This left a deep and dangerous imprint on me, so soul-crushing that I still wonder how it was that I did not wind up going over some edge from which there was no coming back. I hated myself when I looked through the eyes of addiction. And for the longest of times, I did not trust myself. In the end, though, I have come to make my peace with it all. Even though it is deeply unsettling for me to be at odds with others, to go against the flow, there is now something in me that is willing to disturb dysfunction and disconnection despite my discomfort. And it all started with having my children and wanting something more for them. Could we not all find this within ourselves? Could we not all refuse to engage with what is inhumane, addictive and life-depleting? Could we not do this for our children?

Children are so astute and so very, very intuitive. In the beginning, they are more like animals; sensing and feeling their way into the world. They read what is beneath the surface. They respond to what is beyond words. When they are young, you cannot con them. It is only as they get older and figure out that if they want your love, they must tow the party line or risk falling out of favor with you, that they begin to lose their knowledge of what they need from you. Abandonment is a loss they cannot bear. Because of this, they will learn to be OK with very little if very little is what we offer them. It does not mean that this is what they want or need. It means that they are willing to make a deal. A compromise. And the compromise will be them; their hearts, their spirits, their lives. It is by our hand that we force this compromise on them when we live as if the screens are the most important thing in life. We do not do this with our words, but through our daily choices and where we place our attentions.

Not Knowing

 

We live in a time where the zeitgeist demands: You must know. Not only that, you must know a lot, instantaneously, and always. No matter what, you must never stop knowing. We are inundated with more information than we could make use of in multiple life times. Awash in a tsunami of information, images and new sources of output, we try and keep up. There is always something else to check out. There is always something more that we just have to see.  Along the way, our sense of ease and well-being erodes. This is not just because of the content. And this is not just because of how much effort and time that this takes from us. The biggest impact lies in our knowing, way down deep, what a false and futile chase this is leading us on.

Despite our distorted need to daily run this never-ending treadmill, we know somewhere inside that we will never be able to do it. Rightly so. And yet, we soldier on. We tell ourselves how great it is. How advanced we are. How much better our lives are.  And we are training entire generations to build lives on this lie. While the ego eats it all up, the health of our bodies, minds and spirits tells a different story. These parts speak the real tale of living with the pervasive, constant and ultimate impossibility of keeping up with all that is being generated by the machines. We are sicker than we have ever been, despite all of our “advances.” There is even a new mental health category: FOMO. Fear of missing out.

What would it be like to not know? What would it be like to not have every answer instantaneously? What would it be like to spend time with children puzzling something out as opposed to letting Google give them the answer right away? Without a sense of the unknown, we run the risk of believing the wrong things about ourselves. Without a sense of the unknown, we run the risk of believing the wrong things about how life and the Universe actually works. Without a sense of the unknown, we run the risk of believing that machines are more powerful than anything else. And without a sense of the unknown,  we run the risk of believing that our lives are most fully lived in the pursuit of more and more information; reducing ourselves down to little more than zip drives.

Try this: Upon awakening in the morning, let yourself speak out loud some version of, “I do not know what this day will bring.” Say this despite knowing your schedule and how you need your day to go. “I do not know what the weather will bring.” Say this despite being able to pull up the 10 day forecast in a heartbeat. “I do not know what the world at large will do.” Say this despite the availability of live streaming into every nook and cranny of the world. With all of our  ability to know everything, right now, we are masking something vital that we require as human beings; a relationship to the unknown. A way of being mortal that keeps truth, wonder, curiosity, connection to something Greater, along with the knowledge of our own fragility and vulnerability, alive and well. Do not be quick to annihilate this in your life. Do not be quick to obliterate this from your children’s lives. To do so, puts us in the position of believing the wrong things, leaving us at risk to perils that are heart-breaking, soul-sucking and health-depleting.

And while dread, uncertainty, fear and anxiety may arise in admitting just how much we do not know, these words are closer to the truth than any idea you might have about what is going to happen this day. Notice the possibilities that arise when you align with the unknown. Notice the burden that gets put down. Notice the ease that is allowed to come in because you have turned towards the Truth. When we can allow ourselves to turn to Truth, there is a peace that follows. As Swami Kripalu once said, “We are on a journey from the known to the unknown.”

The Best We Can Do

 

I lay in bed last night awake for hours. Hot. Sweaty. Frustrated. Ready to implode. What am I doing here? What is it really all about? Some intensity inside of me was trying to figure something out. Trying to figure out whether I was on the “right” or “wrong” side of this thing called Life.

A professor friend of mine died this past weekend. She was the one who interviewed me and had, without even knowing me, somehow decided I was the one for the job. I never went through the “normal channels” to be hired. She was the one who, without me knowing, kept me from being laid off when the trustees wanted to cut corners and have one of the full time faculty teach my classes. She told the trustees I was the only one who could do what I do. For someone who truly knew me so little, she knew me better than some who have known me longest. She had a kind of built-in faith about me, and it gave me a strength and a confidence that I was lacking at the time.

I actually love death. And I love heartfelt services which necessarily come on the heels of death. Why? Because for that little window of time, everyone’s head snaps back into place. Everyone stops pretending, if even a little, that we don’t know. Everyone stops pretending, if even for a day, that the normal things we run around and chase, pale in comparison to this moment in time.

Our spirits are daily breaking. Each and every day we put more faith and more attention into a machine than we do the sanctity and preciousness of our own lives. We think about our devices more than we do each other. There was a time when we were schooled in placing those energies into Something Greater. Something not man-made. For those of us already grown, maybe we can mend our way back. But what about the children? What about the ones who are being schooled daily to believe that their faith, attention, energies, and the life force itself belongs to something that beeps?

I don’t know if putting these things together is somehow uncouth. All that I can tell you is that when I woke this morning I had a strong sense that all of  it must  be included. That the best that I can do is to decide to notice, and decide to observe deeply. And to act in the only way I know how.

 

Hijacked

 

Last week my husband was away for a couple of nights presenting me with a rare opportunity to have the room to myself. How did I use it? Binge watching half a season of Downton Abbey. It seemed like such a “treat” at the time. A chance to curl up in bed with a story I enjoy. Only. Several hours past my usual bedtime I was still saying to myself, “Just one more.”

The whole non-treat aspect began earlier than I would like to admit when I stole away like a thief in the night, ear buds tucked in my sleeve pre-meditatively, so that my son would not know what I was doing. This so flies in the face of what I stand for and what I expect from him. This one action alone tells me everything I need to know about the long arm of technology. It leaves me dazed, pondering; “What is it that is so powerful that I would go against my body’s needs?”  “What is it that is so much bigger than my values and what I stand for?”

And that night, even though I was tired, I was too wired to fall asleep. It was another hour before I was able to turn off the theme song to Downton Abbey that kept looping insidiously through my mind over and over and over again. Once asleep, I was treated to a night of disturbing dreams and images. The next morning I was bleary-eyed and stiff. And even though the air was sweet and the day magnificent, I barely slogged my way through a run that I typically so look forward to. Later that day going to teach one of my favorite topics (ironically enough entitled Technology and Its Impact On Our Health And Well-Being), I was unable to focus on my notes for class. Nothing seemed to stick, and my usually creative zeal was MIA. I crawled through the day; my passion and vitality hijacked the night before by images on a screen.

What could almost be laughable is that we are talking about a PBS series. I mean, really. This seems pretty low on the power continuum of gaming, shopping, social networking and porn. But the compulsion was there nontheless. There is no denying that. And so I ask you, how in the name of all that is good in our lives are we and our children going to stand up to the really seductive and addictive stuff?

P.S. If there was ever any thought in my little rat brain of how great it would be to have Netflex, it is gone. I don’t think I would be able to live with myself and the dull and meaningless life that would ensue. I do not think I could bear theme songs and characters on a screen hijacking my very existence.

Seeds Of Irretrievable Loss

 

Recently, I was at a family gathering where a new mother with babe in arms left the dinner table to go into the other room to nurse. I sat feeling the wrongness and the unnecessary isolation being imposed when a woman feels as though she needs to separate herself from her people to feed her own baby. At one point I got up to see if she needed anything, only to find her deeply engrossed and hunched over her phone. She didn’t need me or my show of support. In fact, she didn’t really need any of us at that gathering. Who would miss us when there were infinite “tribes” to connect to with the swipe of a finger; potential communities, activities and entertainment sources that would ask nothing of her other than to stay curled over her device, but ultimately giving nothing much in return. Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. Mother and child off in another room by themselves. A baby at the breast of a mother who only has eyes for her screen. This is the seed of what is to come, and it ain’t pretty.

The very heart of our lives and therefor the lives of our communities is held and formed in the bond between a mother and her child. Baby and mother breathing as one. Heartbeats beating in sync. Invisible cords with the tensile strength of steel move back and forth weaving the two together. It is primal, animal and non-verbal. It is touch and smell and sound. It is the sacred encapsulating the physical. It is the dance and love song of life itself. They are more one than two.

So, what will it mean to insert a machine between them? What will it do to that new life seeking itself in the eyes of another to look up and see a piece of metal? What will it do to the physical health of a rapidly developing nervous system to be so close, so often, to the electromagnetic fields given off by the devices? How will that mother know her baby in the way that only a mother can know her child if she is physically there, but little else? How will that mother know how to advocate for herself and her child in the face of the injustices of the world if she can so easily distract herself from the inhumane realities that surround her? The same realities that only a present and passionate mother has the clarity and strength to challenge on behalf of her child.  Truly, there are no words forceful enough or compelling enough to convey the irretrievable loss that takes place in this one scenario. You must feel your way through this one in all of its subtleties and nuances.  And extrapolate out…

 

Addiction

 

Before we knew, we knew. I am talking about the way we have been joking with one another about how addicted we are to our devices. South Korea, who embraced technology a decade before us, already has Internet Addiction camps that their youth attend. Instead of treatment for booze or drugs, it is rehab for the screens. For children. Internet and gaming addictions are widespread among those seeking mental health counseling for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatry and Psychology lists Internet Addiction in the appendix “Conditions Requiring Further Study.” Our noses are pressed up against something, and still we refuse to acknowledge what it is that is right under those very same noses.

How can this be? How can something so life-altering be directly in front of us without garnering our recognition of it? In a word, denial. Wherever we find addiction, we find denial, the king of all the defense mechanisms. This is the vehicle through which we refuse the reality that stands before us. Denial takes many forms, some obvious, some more subtle and slippery. There is the way we will wiggle out of the recognition by finding ways to justify our choices. There is the way we will acknowledge something as problematic while simultaneously slipping away from that acknowledgement. It is there in the way we say this is how it is and there is nothing we can do. And it is there in the way we downplay how much it is impacting us. The “funny” thing is though that when we look at a psychological definition of denial, it is an unconscious defense against experiencing unbearable pain. Amidst our great celebration of all things screen, we are suffering terribly. Despite how things look on the surface, the underneath tells a different story. This pattern is always present with addiction, and its henchman denial.

One of the most profound things I ever heard come out of a teacher’s mouth was, “What is real in this moment?” Not how you want it to be. Not how you were told it should be. Not what keeps things smooth with others. But how is it, really? It takes great courage and determination to look at life squarely without backing off or twisting away. It takes great presence and discernment to see the truth as opposed to colluding with a kind of mass denial that keeps us feeling more at home by being addicted right along with those around us. It’s more comfortable this way because we are not alone. This way there is no rub or challenge to the status quo. This way we get to leave the responsibility for our lives and that of our children’s in the hands of something else. Only through looking  will we know how to proceed, will we know when our lives have gotten off track, will we know when we are lying to ourselves..

Here is a real denial-busting question to ask of yourself: “Do you think that on your last day you will lament that you did not have enough time in front of a screen?” No? What is it then that you will lament?

What I Have Heard From The Ones Up Ahead

 

I teach a college course called Relaxation Techniques. One of the topics we cover is looking at how technology  impacts our health and well-being. Working with 200 students each year, here is the short list of what I consistently hear, each and every semester:

Of the way their cell phones serve as a “lifeline,” and that without them they would be lost, afraid and disconnected.

Of the collective agreement to turn a blind eye to how people lie online.

Of the headaches, neck strain, insomnia and shoulder pain they experience when in front of their screens.

Of a looming feeling that maybe their devices will cause cancer, but being unable to let go of them nontheless.

Of the uneasy feeling that part of them is missing without their phones.

Of the overwhelm when their phone is about to lose its charge.

Of the exhaustion they regularly feel because instead of going to sleep they get caught up in a Netflex binge, or get lost checking their social media sites.

Of the sadness and disappointment they feel when a friend is more interested in their device than them.

Of the feeling that whoever they are with, they are always with someone else.

Of the addiction they see in others and experience within themselves.

Of the despair that only comes late at night thinking that maybe the days and months logged gaming might not be so cool after all.

Of the realization that there is always, always an excuse to have their cell phone out, even though it is getting in the way of school work, intimacy, peace of mind or sleep.

Of the lack of satisfying connection in their relationships despite their ability to get in touch with anyone at any time.

Of real life, in-person conversations being awkward, thinking that maybe that is why people say this generation has deteriorated social skills.

Of the deep and pervasive fear to be alone with themselves.

Of the time they spend stressing over a single letter or punctuation mark, fearful of how it will be received.

Of being constantly afraid that something will happen to them or someone they know, but that as long as they are with a cell phone they will be insulated from that harm somehow.

Of the fear to call as opposed to text because you never know what someone might say.

Of the terror that perhaps their lives are not meaningful without someone else looking at what they have posted, tweeted, or snapchatted.

And of the sense that something is not working, but feeling that this is just how it is now.

They believe this is how it is now because they do not have a before. They believe this is how it is because this is what we have taught them. They believe this is how it is because this is what we as the grown-ups in their lives have allowed to occur.