Welcome Back to American Culture

One thing that I learned early on in my journey as a basketball wife was that after spending months overseas there would be some culture shock in coming back to the U.S. I remember my first day back in the U.S. after spending 4 months in Greece for my first overseas experience and being shocked at the size of everything in the U.S. We are a “big” culture. We buy in bulk, we sell large meals, our people and animals are bigger, our stores offer a bigger selection, etc. Over the years I have noticed little things here and there as I have come back from being overseas, but nothing has shocked me quite as much as that first time I came home. That is, until this year.

A few days after we got home from Ukraine, I was at an ice hockey game. I was still a bit jet lagged, but overall was feeling pretty good. The game was moving along through the first period and then came the break between the first and second periods. And it was like I had entered the Twilight Zone. As soon as that buzzer went off to end the first period, people whipped their mobile devices out like nothing I have ever seen. As I looked around to see what people were doing I saw everything from checking Facebook pages to texting to playing games to posting pictures. I kept looking and saw couples that were obviously on a “date” sitting beside one another moving their thumbs quickly across their phones. I saw kids with their parents all with their own devices lost in their own worlds.

It was really striking to me, especially considering I hadn’t even brought my phone in the building because I was there with my dad and if I needed to call someone I could use his phone. Or asked one of the hundreds of people around me who had a phone.

Now it isn’t like I don’t see phone usage in Europe. I certainly do. In fact texting was big in Europe long before it was in the U.S. because it was cheaper over there. So I can remember fumbling around with texting back in 2005 while my European counterparts could breeze through a text like they had taken a class on it. I had to actually get used to the fact that people would text rather than call. But I think the big shift in the U.S. has come with the iPhone. It is relatively cheap to get an iPhone in the U.S., which is not the case in Europe. They are much more expensive there and not as universally used. Plus there seem to be less phones trying to copy off them. But in the U.S., the majority of the people have an iPhone. And there seems to be something about the iPhone that is addicting and almost seems to come up with reasons why you should be on it every hour of your waking day.

This little glimpse into American culture was a wake-up call to me because it saddened me. People barely talk to one another anymore. Or even beyond that, they don’t know how to just sit and “be” for 10 minutes without their fingers having something to do. It is part of the reason I am off Facebook and Twitter and have turned off all notifications on my own iPhone. It is part of the reason I put my phone away one day each week and don’t use it. And it is part of the reason we are already thinking through how we will let our kids use phones and how we want to model phone usage for them. We really want to be people who love people and not things. And you show what you love partly by the way you spend your time. And what I saw at that 2 hour glimpse into American culture is that we spend a lot of time on our phones.

This is not a rant against iPhones, but just something I felt compelled to share because it squeezed at my heart. Maybe you don’t even have a cell phone, but all of us probably have an area where our stated priorities don’t line up with where we spend our time. I just want to challenge you to think through that today. Have a great Thursday!