Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Family Forte: Breaking Snapchat Streaks

 By: Topher Wiles

It’s not just teenagers that get a thrill from watching the number by the flame grow day by day. People of all ages enjoy the feature that Snapchat has dubbed “streaks”. A 2017 Business Insider article gives us this information on a Snapchat streak. “A Snapchat streak is when you send direct snaps back and forth with a friend for several consecutive days. The longer you go without breaking the chain of communication, the longer your streak is. Snapchat rewards longer streaks with special emojis, such as the ‘100’ emoji for streaks lasting 100 days, or a mountain emoji for an extremely long streak.  Many teens (and adults I know) invest an inordinate amount of time keeping streaks alive. There's nothing more devastating than losing a streak you've put months of work into.” 1 (see endnotes)

photocredit: www.cyberdefinitions.com

I have an adult friend who surprised me one day stating, “I have a couple streaks that are over 400 days long.”  That means they’ve snapped someone on their phone every day for over a year straight.  As for me, I’ve explored streaks as I’ve tried to learn more about the opportunities and pitfalls of this social media messaging platform that more of our church members are using. My longest streak was 76 days, a paltry number compared to the record that suntrics.com has listed as of May 2021. That record is considered to be 2165 consecutive days and counting.2 Can you believe that Ally Zaino and Kait Bruneau have sent messages to each other every day for nearly 6 years? That’s almost as long as the streak was introduced on April 6th, 2015.

Snapchat streakers feel strong emotions when considering losing their streaks, as if they are losing a tangible commodity that they’ve worked hard for or losing an actual relationship with a friend. I know anxiety rides high for some Snapchat Streakers when friends don’t snap back in a timely fashion, threatening to reset that precious streak number to zero. 

Yet, I think it is entirely healthy to break a Snapchat streak.  We aren’t designed to be tethered 365 days a year to our cell phones.

One of the events that recently broke my Snapchat streaks was a camping trip with the boys to Standing Stone State Park.  It had beautiful trails, overlooks, a gorgeous old dam releasing water from the lake, streams to cross, tennis courts, and a live little scorpion found in a campsite by a neighboring camper.  Standing Stone was a delightful bliss of a two day getaway for my three sons and I. The park had everything we needed.  What it didn’t have was cellphone reception on my network or accessible wifi from the campsite. I was completely unplugged from the communications world, tuned into enjoying the outdoors with Gabriel, Ethan, and Micah, and I loved it. From the smiles and laughs as we sat at the Dairy Queen in Livingston rehashing our highlights from the trip while downing delicious Blizzards, I’d say the boys were glad I unplugged as well.

Sadly, I’m one of those people who stay connected as my cell phone serves as my Bible, prayer list, note taking device, to-do list, calendar, and communications hub. The boys and I were taking guesses as to how many notifications I would receive at the end of the two day camping trip when I reached cell signal again.  Gabriel won as my 2-day notification tally sent my cell phone into a vibrating spastic seizure  surpassing 300 alerts from social media platforms, text messages, and emails. Many of you are like me, tied to your cell phone with constant communications and uses.   Many of us are even addicted to our smart phones, Facebook feeds, and Snapchat Streaks. Take a look at some of the information on smartphone addiction from disturbmenot.co.

“Nomophobia is the official term for smartphone addiction—a rising issue in modern society among both the young and the old. 

·         66.53% of the world’s population has a mobile device.

·         People tap, swipe, and click an average of 2,617 times per day.

·         iPhone users unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day.

·         Users spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day on their smartphones.

·         26% of car accidents are caused by smartphone usage.

·         52% of American teens want to take steps to cut back on their use of smartphones.”3

Over half of American teens would like to cut back that smartphone usage, yet features like the Snapchat Streak count, Facebook Like, Instagram Heart, and Twitter Re-tweet are designed to keep us plugged in and addicted.  I recommend looking up the adverse effects of cell phone addictions that are listed on numerous websites, such as psychguides.com. I won’t go into detail here, but I was surprised to read that male infertility, neck strain, OCD, and depression are among issues connected with cellphone over-usage.4 

For our family’s strength, health, and relationships, I believe we need to encourage each other to break the Snapchat streaks, because being connected to your cellphone daily for 6+ years is going to have net negative consequences.  While it won’t be popular with those addicted, especially teens, (it may potentially induce short term anxiety, irritation, and restlessness) breaking cell phone streaks and addictions needs to happen from time to time for us to rest and focus on the highest priorities in life.  Take a camping trip with your kids, go on a cruise with your friends, or declare a “no-cell phone” weekend in your house while you read actual books and do things that make you feel good. Enjoy distraction free time together as a family and focus on God’s blessings around you.  My streaks are broken, and I’ve been set free. Consider how you can enjoy freedom with your family too.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12 

Check out that little scorpion from Standing Stone!


1 https://www.businessinsider.com/teens-explain-snapchat-streaks-why-theyre-so-addictive-and-important-to-friendships-2017-4

2 https://suntrics.com/tech-blogs/longest-snapchat-streak-a-brief-guide

3 https://disturbmenot.co/cell-phone-addiction-statistics/

4 https://www.psychguides.com/behavioral-disorders/cell-phone-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.christiscentral.org.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Family Forte: Grace for Grumpies

 by: Topher Wiles

The tennis director and I were lamenting the challenge that preachers can be when signing up to play in a weekend tournament after I apologized for having a funeral come up on Saturday in the middle of the tournament. She said, “That’s not a problem. Schedules I can fix. What I can’t deal with are grumpy preachers.” After asking her to elaborate, she shared that the worst challenge she ever had with a preacher in her tennis tournament. It wasn’t in last minute scheduling changes, but was his poor attitude, constant complaints, and bickering with others. She admitted that this Christian preacher whined about the awful Tennessee weather and even yelled at the director about the Tennessee temperatures!

With so much to be joyful about in the pursuit of Christ (and tennis), how can the words “grumpy” and “Christian” ever go together?  Isn’t that an oxymoron like “organized chaos” and an “honest thief”?  While it’s true that scripture inspires us to be joyous and sacrificial saints, we are also Christ’s perfect imperfections (another oxymoron).  While we follow Him, we’re still plagued with our own sin and selfishness dubbed by Scripture as “the old self.” (Rom 6:6)  In our battle against Satan and the old self, even followers of Christ can have time periods of being grumpy, irritable, and whiny.  Sadly, for some who claim faith in Christ this isn’t a momentary slip, but the grumbling mentality seems to be a way of life. The God of Scripture calls us to a higher standard and dares us to accept a better way. So how do we deal with those who have fallen so far from grace and joy?

First, we need to immerse ourselves into prayer.  Even spur-of-the-moment short prayers as a normally grumpy person approaches can put us in the right mindset and involve God in the conversation from the beginning. As you pray, always thank God for the person and pray a blessing for them. Jesus went so far as to instruct us to pray for our enemies. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

Second, we need to examine our own lives against scripture to see if God’s correction applies to us. God gives a stern warning through a brother of Jesus, Jude.  “The Lord comes…to execute judgment…on all and to convict all the ungodly... These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (excerpts from Jude 1:14-16).  Then another potential brother of Jesus gets more direct, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:9)  Paul is even more succinct as he states, “Do not grumble as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Cor 10:10) We have to ask the hard question of ourselves first, “Am I a grumpy Christian?”  For an honest answer, ask your parents, spouse, or kids to get that no-holds-barred kind of truthful answer. Only by looking to remove the plank in our own eye can we begin helping another with the speck in theirs avoiding the risk of being a hypocrite.

Finally, our goal with a grumpy Christian needs to be the same as Paul’s. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal 6:1)  Focus on that “spirit of gentleness” as you correct them.  While it may seem satisfying to give them the same sarcastic high intensity verbal lashing that they give others, tit-for-tat lessons rarely have an impact other than to make them and you even more surly. To maintain a spirit of gentleness and avoid temptation, keep calm while letting them talk.  Ask questions about their feelings and emotions to get them to talk through their challenges. “I can hear that you are upset by this situation, why do you feel this way?” “Why did you choose such negative words?” “Why do you think that statement is a fair assessment?”  “What are you going to do or change in your own life to make the situation better?”  One stat I found claims that Jesus asked 307 questions in the gospels to help people find their way to His better path.  Keeping calm while listening is a surprisingly great way to quiet the grumpy Christian while also modeling a better way. Remember, some people have been allowed to think grumbling as acceptable Christian behavior for many years; it may take a lot of time, prayers, and gentle correction to change their attitudes.

In the end, when you catch someone who normally complains in the act of speaking positively, rejoice and encourage them knowing you aren’t alone in this triumph! “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.christiscentral.org.