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I’ve spent a fair amount of time at airports lately (and will again later this afternoon). One missed flight, six hours of standby, a tornado, and a cancelled confirmation will do wonders to your schedule.

One of the things about flying Southwest, which I absolutely love to do, is that they don’t assign actual seats. You board in groups and pick the seat that’s available. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an open seat next to you. This is when most people go into a human form of airplane mode. What does that look like?

  • You avoid eye contact at all possible.
  • You put your book on the seat next to you.
  • You manufacture a fake cough.
  • You place a stolen baby blanket on your lap.
  • You pretend to be asleep and hope they won’t bother you.
  • If you’re religious, you begin praying to God to keep that seat open.

Why do people do these things? It’s simple: they don’t want anyone to sit next to them.

In airplane mode, we don’t want anyone to sit next to us, talk to us, interrupt us, climb over us, handle our drinks, or ask us questions. We just want to be left alone.

In many ways, it’s not unlike putting your phone in airplane mode. When you do so, it effectively shuts off contact with the outside world.

There are times when going into airplane mode can be beneficial. When it’s intentional and purposeful solitude, or a planned retreat to connect with God, airplane mode is not only beneficial but essential. But I’m not worried about people overdoing the healthy form of airplane mode.

I’m more worried about how the unhealthy version has crept (or charged!) into our everyday lives.

What do you do when waiting in the line at the grocery store? You probably pull out your phone and check messages, even though you probably checked it less than five minutes before.

If you ride mass transit to work, it used to be newspapers and books that formed the “do not disturb” shield. Now it’s your smartphone.

How many people do you meaningfully engage before or after a church service? Do you find yourself avoiding eye contact, hoping the seat next to you stays open?

When two strangers start talking in line at a restaurant, do you think that’s weird?

As a culture, we run much of our daily lives in airplane mode. Perhaps it’s why we are an increasingly isolated culture. Isn’t it ironic that we live in one of the most interconnected times and yet many people are more disconnected from meaningful relationships than ever before?

What can you do?

You can start by relearning how to talk to people. Smile more. Become interested in others. Pray for them. Ask God to help you see his thought and creativity inside of others.

Charging your phone while on airplane mode is indeed faster, but living the rest of your life in airplane mode will be detrimental to your soul and spirit.