As modern day gentlemen, we face unique challenges that no other generation before us has encountered.
We live in a digital world.
This flies in the face of much of what a gentleman values. The difficulties presented by our increasing dependence on our devices have left us paralyzed and confused as to what is truly important to focus on and press into.
What is to be expected of us? Should we unplug from this modern world altogether and hold steadfast to the traditions of the past? Are we to abandon the values held by previous generations as to adapt to a changing world that demands adaptation and compromise?
Let’s first look at some of the foremost challenges that this digital age presents to the modern day gentleman.
Of course this is where we must begin. In my opinion, the single biggest threat that faces us in the midst of an increasingly virtual world is the potential loss of our ability to communicate, profoundly, with one another. I think we are tip-toeing dangerously close to a line we are entirely unprepared to cross. I believe we’ve been spoon fed the deceivingly attractive falsehood that if we are in communication with someone, we are investing in our relationship with them. Gentlemen, do not be one of the misled. Relationships are so much more than simply exchanging information. A man in my life who I admire deeply once told me this:
“Friendships are really hard work. Be careful how many you form”.
On its face, that may seem completely counterintuitive to the heart of most messages we share here on the Modern Day Gentleman blog. “Be careful how many friendship you form?! Are you suggesting I shy away from establishing new relationships!?”, you might ask. Absolutely not. Let me explain.
To say you ought to be careful with how many friendships you form is not in any way meant to deter you from forming them in the first place. It is simply to say that relationships with others, when entered into correctly and genuinely, take time, energy and effort that is not meant to be spread thinly.
We live in a society and culture that values our number of friends more than it values the strength of the bond within them. If you are not careful you can easily find yourself spending your time trying to increase the amount of Twitter followers you have instead of following up with a friend who you knew had a stressful meeting at work yesterday.
Never let the opportunities that technology affords us get in the way of genuine and intentional relationship with one another.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to be present and engaged in a world where distractions aren’t only all around us in our environments at work, or on our commutes, but even with us in our homes. An infinite number of distractions are only as far away as a reach into your pocket. Information is all around us.
Please do not misunderstand…this provides us with all sorts of incredible opportunities to learn and grow, and should not be discounted entirely as destructive! It is not the information that is destructive. It is how we abuse its availability and choose to replace any opportunity to be present in a given moment, with our consumption of it.
We must be diligent and intentional to ensure we never replace genuine interactions with those around us, for time on our devices. There are very few situations in which it is appropriate to be on your device (phone, tablet, laptop, whatever it may be) when you are spending time with other people. By in large you should be very careful with the use of technology when you have the opportunity to be in relationship with someone who is right in front of you.
I’m not sharing anything new when I tell you that there is an increasing amount information out there today that is more hurtful than helpful. We intake information all day, in multiple areas of our lives. We must ensure that as we intake information from so many different sources, that we are always affirming that what we are learning is not only accurate, but is also helpful.
There is so much hatred and bigotry on the internet today. People have become emboldened with their newfound ability to speak anonymously and freely. They have found a twisted sense of superiority in the opportunity to tear others down from the safety of their desk chairs.
It has revealed a very dark part of human nature in a way that I think very few of us were prepared for. Please, dear reader, be careful to not take part in the negativity that is so violently spread on forums, in chats, and through blogs. This doesn’t just mean you should be careful not to say hurtful things of your own, as I’m sure most of you don’t go around spreading gossip and saying harmful things because you’re bored. But we must also be intentional not to take part in this destructive trend by reading and intaking the information that these people and organizations are giving to us. As you see articles posted, and stories shared, be diligent to choose wisely what it is you are spending your time reading.
Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it any less hurtful or inaccurate than if it was said or shared in person. In fact, sometimes information can be more destructive online. So please, be wise about what you intake on the internet, and be equally or more wise with what you share. This is a trap that so many gentlemen fall into without ever intending it.
Now that I’ve shared what I think it is that you should carefully avoid, let me also briefly say that I do not think the answer to all these difficult questions about the dangers of technology, is to avoid it altogether!
Certainly we would not be wise to avoid technology as a whole and throw it all out as harmful, distracting and dangerous. This too, as in all areas of a gentleman’s life, should be considered and implemented appropriately and carefully. But implemented, nonetheless! The opportunities that this digital world affords us, when used correctly, can in fact enable us to step into even deeper relationship with one another!
I am not suggesting that we stray away from technology as a thing to be feared or avoided. I am simply asking that, my fellow gentleman, you think very intentionally and wisely about your choices when it comes to technology and its potential effects, good and bad, on your lives and the lives of those around you. So much of what we share these days, especially over our devices, is shared using text. Though it can be extremely helpful in many situations, please be cautious with this form of communication. When a message is received void of body language and vocal cues, for example, it can be easily misunderstood and misconstrued. A message intended to encourage someone can be read from their perspective as a passive aggressive way to accomplish your own agenda. A message you meant to be light and funny can be easily misunderstood as insulting or distasteful, even if that was not your intention whatsoever. Once again, my plea to you is not a request to cease using this form of communication entirely, but simply to take into consideration all of these new dynamics that are coming in to play faster than we are able to understand them. And to be cognizant of how those new dynamics can be more hurtful than helpful if not paid attention to.
So go, gentlemen. Go and enter into deep relationships with one another, despite the challenges we face in this digital generation that tempt us to remain on the surface. Go and engage in meaningful conversation and be present to one another, even within the distractions vying for our attention and time. Go and discuss things with transparency, honesty, and grace, rejecting what others may be partaking in and encouraging you to do through their hurtful words and dishonest misinformation.
The life of a gentleman is looked to by others as an example of consistency and integrity. Even if you do not realize it, people are watching to see how you are handling and reacting to these ever-changing trends. Do not take that responsibility lightly. The world needs men of character and virtue. It’s time we boldly meet that need.