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Smart Phone Issue is Bigger Than We Realized

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We knew it was an issue – we just didn’t realize how BIG an issue it was. When I blogged Should We Ban Smart Phones on the World Race? last week, over 200 comments came back (including the 80 on Facebook), many of them long and passionate. For example, Darren began by saying: “It seems AIM is t…
By Seth Barnes

Banning SmartphonesWe knew it was an issue – we just didn’t realize how BIG an issue it was. When I blogged Should We Ban Smart Phones on the World Race? last week, over 200 comments came back (including the 80 on Facebook), many of them long and passionate.

For example, Darren began by saying:

“It seems AIM is trying so hard to uniform everything and run everything like a well-oiled machine that they are losing the individual racer and individual squad growth at ones own pace and instead trying to control every aspect and ram it down your throat if you like it or not.”

A staff member read his comment and wrote me,

“I know, and just about everyone at this office would affirm, that just the opposite is the goal and heartbeat of AIM and the World Race. We are actually trying to create an atmosphere for young people to get out of the grip of the vanities of the present culture. And that is actually, from my understanding, why we are having this conversation about smart phones. We want to help racers get freed up.”

The World Race is about discipling and empowering 20-somethings. We are about helping them discover freedom and identity. Rarely do you solve complex problems like this one with a rule.

At the same time, smart phones, while a wonderful tool, can completely undermine a racer’s discipleship experience. Many of those who have been on the race were passionate about the issue:

Kara said:

“When I left on the race (Jan 09) none of us had smart phones. As a result, our teams became family in a very deep way. I read through the bible that year and really pressed into my relationship with the Lord.. I can’t imagine what my race, and what my relationship with the Lord would look like if myself and my teammates had smart phones.

I’m thankful that we didn’t have the option, as a result our relationships were richer, we grew in the lord, and we actually knew what abandonment looked like.. I have to wonder if Racers these days even know what it’s like to really miss their family, do they know what it’s like to really not have constant communication with them? I personally think we should do away with them, computers are already enough of a distraction. No phones is part of the journey.”

Andy had a good analysis of the issue:

“Smartphones preference immediacy by abandoning continuity. Smartphones assume your default state is interruptable. Immediate updates – no matter how trivial – should be allowed to disrupt real-life interactions or deliberate mental focus. Smartphones inhibit intentionality, which should be alarming as a precedent for Racers.

Smartphones enable rapid communication by devaluing dedicated dialog. Smartphones assume the user ought to be able to split their attention across multiple conversations and stimuli for indefinite periods of time.”

I asked our senior leaders to read over your comments and consider what the appropriate response would be. Our consensus was, “We’re not going to ban smartphones, but how do we help racer’s use this as a learning experience where they get the most out of the race possible?”

We further thought that perhaps you, our readers, can help us. We are not in a rush and we want to get this right. We need your counsel.

So please help us develop a considered response to the issue. Help us craft a statement the comment section below. What if you were responsible for the experience of a specific squad? What would you ask of them or require of them to help them get the most out of the race possible? 

We compiled a list of governing principles here. Please check them out.

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