Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Speaking Out: Disconnected in a virtual world

By  Emily Knudsgaard, Youth Speak News
  • February 17, 2021

In a world where we have so much technology and connection right at our fingertips, why do we sometimes feel so disconnected?

We have devices in our pocket just a reach away where we can instantly message, call, e-mail or check social media to see what others are doing around us in real-time. However, we are in a generation where we don’t look up from our phones to see what is happening around us (I’m guilty of this) or have a conversation with the person beside us.

I can recall, in early 2019, sitting on a train full of people commuting home after a busy day. I had my headphones on, listening to music, and was reading my notes studying for an upcoming midterm. I remember looking up from my notebook and realizing that very few people were interacting with one another. We were all just going through the motions of our day-to-day lives, headphones in, the world out. I knew that there were so many unique minds among all these people, filled with so many different personalities, backgrounds, gifts, stories and ideas to share. Yet it was easier, pre-pandemic, to reach for our devices, to start scrolling online, than to be present and to start a conversation with the person next to us.

How ironic it is that in 2021 we are missing and longing for the most basic in-person social connection. COVID-19 has only amplified this current lack of connectedness.

Only limited social and sporting gatherings can take place. Smiles are now hidden behind a mask or viewed behind a screen. University classes are now primarily online. We work from home on the computer and connect with classmates and professors over Zoom. We eat Christmas dinner on FaceTime with family who cannot celebrate with us in person and we attend Mass virtually and receive sacraments through spiritual communion.

This last one has been the most challenging for me: “How do I stay connected to the Church during the pandemic?” Although I do enjoy every Sunday deciding where will I watch Mass today, being able to listen and see different cathedrals and churches around the world, and listening to sermons from priests I don’t get to hear otherwise, I cannot wait for the day and will never take for granted, celebrating Mass as a parish community, reciting the prayers and singing hymns together with a full church congregation. Masses have returned to limited capacity in some parts of Canada and this little contact is all the more reason and motivation for us to be the light of Christ for people in our world who cannot attend church or Mass. It is an opportunity for us to bring the teachings of the Church out into the world and to send love to those who need it the most right now.

In a world where we have so much technology and connection right at our fingertips, why are we so disconnected? Certainly, it is missing being able to gather in the same way as we did prior to COVID-19. Or perhaps we are missing our greater connectedness to our faith and the life God has planned for each of us. Maybe we are missing God’s blessings right in front of us by being so pre-occupied with our screens or being caught up in our own day-to-day lives. Maybe this pandemic can be used to give us a chance to pause, to reset and to ask fundamental questions:

“What are the priorities in my life?” and “What is my purpose?” And once we find that purpose we should ask: “How can I share the gifts I have been given to help those around me?”

So, when will we get off this train of disconnectedness? When will we put our phone down, look up and be fully present and connected to the world around us? The answer may be sitting next to us — though socially distanced for now.

(Knudsgaard is the student Spirituality Officer in the Bachelor of Education program and the Student Campus Ministry officer at St. Mary’s University in Calgary.)

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