You are an astronaut—smart, savvy and with a unique ability to fly through a new world, making your way through the unknown, in and out of wormholes. You discover new planets and you know how to check for signs of life. You understand well how to navigate through masses of star constellations and fly through the complexities of galaxies and even into foreign worlds.
If you are a young adult in the year 2016 then you, like me, are an astronaut. We are experts in a new world of technology and social media, raised in what’s called the “media generation.” With ease we learn to navigate new applications, understanding their interfaces, and almost immediately connect with our friends on whichever new app we are using. Our ability to adapt and conform to the devices in our hands is remarkable, really. We learn new steps so quickly, without instruction, that it’s no wonder our parents feel completely disconnected from our “social life.” It’s all on a screen that we maintain under secret combinations and codes.
We’ve become such experts in this new world that we know exactly what to do in order to not just be another astronaut in space but to be the best astronaut. The picture with just the right Instagram filter and angle that get us the most “likes” will mark us as king or queen of our social media page but only for a few hours until another astronaut takes the crown on a picture with just a few more likes than yours.
We’ve learned to communicate through some disappearing black hole called Snapchat where we post something hilarious that will disappear the moment it shows up on our friends’ screens. We send cute pictures that are “pre-approved” because heaven forbid someone see one of us astronauts without makeup or those classy duck lips. We build friendships from this exterior image of who we want to be, but not technically who we are. We hide in the space suits we have created, shielded by an exterior bubble that can’t be popped by anyone because of the protection of our screen. After all, reality is exactly as we see it on our Facebook pages, right? And if everyone sees that we are cute, happy, and have the latest iPhones, then what could possibly go wrong with this beautiful galaxy we’ve created for ourselves?
Now, imagine if space were to crumble. If our phones were to suddenly die and that thing called wifi no longer existed. What if our space suits came melting off our bodies and that black hole called Snapchat were to disappear into the history of time and space? Could you image an hour without your phone? What about a day? A week? Holy cow … what about a year!? OMG. What a lonely world that would be.
Marshall McLuhan a famous media professor (yes there are actually people who study this new outer space we all live in) predicted that media and technology would eventually become an extension of our inner-consciousness. That means that we human beings are evolving in such a way that soon we will be unable to function without media at our fingertips, and we might almost be there. McLuhan said that just as easily as we use our hands without thinking, we will also begin to use our devices without thinking. He teaches that our fundamental understanding of human beings and relationships will change as well. Makes sense. I mean most of us “astronauts” these days define our relationships by our social media. Face-to-face conversation and a good ol’ heart-to-heart with your BFF can now take place over Snapchat, and getting our true feelings across depends on how many words and emojis we can pump out in thirty seconds.
But the truth is, through all of this space-soaring, we are all still very alone…perhaps even more alone than previous generations. Dudi Ben David, a well-known Israeli singer, recorded a song that hit at the hearts of young Israelis. Dudi talks about finding himself amid the chaos and pressure of the world. He talks about having seven hundred Facebook friends, yet still feeling incredibly alone. “Zuckerberg built a new world to not feel alone … how mistaken he was” reads his most famous lyric.
We, as the media generation, have become experts in building fake worlds. We’ve disconnected from genuine friendships; getting out into nature is a thing of the past for us. We’ve become so distracted with our devices that our relationships are actually defined by the very thing that destroys them. If Marshall McLuhan’s theory is correct, then we are in a very dangerous position for the future of humanity. If outer space doesn’t crumble, then it will eat us all alive.
We are at the age at which we define who we are. We are all astronauts thrust into this journey of self-discovery. From one senior astronaut to all you newbies: Don’t let outer space define who you are. Don’t let the black holes get in the way of the wonder of what true friendships can be. Don’t be alone in a sea of people because your entire person is made up entirely online. Take fifteen minutes every morning (leave your phone inside) to go outside and watch the way the sun glistens off the grass, and listen to the way the birds seem to talk to each other.
It’s okay if space crumbles, in fact you might find out that you don’t want to wear that heavy space suit anyway. I challenge us astronauts to break the stereotypes of our generation: Go get lost in a real book, or build a fort with friends in the backyard. I challenge you to take a deep breath of the night air and take a look at the real space above you. Start learning to see how big our world is outside of cellphones and the internet. Go and laugh with your parents, or play a card game with your siblings and learn to love the world around you more than your phones.
The Bible talks about spending time with God. King David used to sit on the edge of his window, play his harp and talk to God. If you ever read Psalms, you’ll see how real King David was with the Creator of the universe. He asks God why death happens to little babies, why bad things happen to good people, why relationships break, and why nations rise up against nations. He begs God for answers about war, hate, and the evils of this world. Yet he also praises God for his goodness, for love, for friendship, for devotion to the good in this world, for caring for the infant in its mother’s womb, and for HaShem’s great love that he has for each one of us.
So put your phones down, fellow astronauts, and find a Bible; go outside and read about King David’s cries to God. See the nature that God gave you. A famous rabbi once said, “The entire world was created for you.” Go and live.
It’s a very big world out there; make sure you don’t get lost in outer space, and never forget that you were created for something so much bigger than the generation into which you were born. Go find yourself in nature, in a sport, in a hobby that you love. Go find God in the Bible, in nature, and in this beautiful place called planet Earth.
Much love, fellow astronauts. #dontgetlostoutthere