Spilled Salt: Thoughts from Van Dop

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By Adam Van Dop

Spilled Salt - Reality Check

The other day, while I was playing with my daughter, the news was on. Given my male tendency of not being able to multi-task, I wasn’t paying attention to the news. It was not until after the broadcast ended that my wife pointed out one particular story to me. 

It was a story of a couple in South Korea who had 3 month old daughter, who was born prematurely. This couple also had an internet addiction. Put the two together, and the end result was the death of their daughter – due to malnutrition and neglect, a terribly sad ending.

Ironically, the internet addiction was an online role playing game (Prius Online, http://mmohut.com/preview/prius-online), where the couple had to care for a virtual child.

Is this a sign of our times? When reality and fantasy collide and someone actually dies as a result? A description on the games website explains part of the game: “This young girl, called Anima, has her own skills which are strengthened when players bond with her.” In order to be successful in the game then, the players are required to spend time with their online characters.

I must say, I am just completely baffled. How could these parents simply ignore their child? Surely this girl would scream in her hunger – but wait – if you read the article (in the link above) carefully, you’ll find that the parents would actually leave the girl at home while they went to internet cafés, and when they came home one time – they found their daughter – lifeless.

Games are a form of escapism. They give you a chance to take a break, to clear your thoughts, to wind down from routine and monotany. I’m thinking this is fine – in the short term, or in small increments. I do it myself. If it weren’t for “Seinfeld” and “the Simpsons” – I might just lack the ability to wind down and clear my thoughts after a day’s work. I imagine that is how this couple first got started into this gaming addiction.

I would like this to be some sort of reality check.

Take a stock now of your life –
Is there anything (technology, entertainment, or other things) that is removing you from your family?
Is there anything (technology, entertainment, or other things) that is slowly becoming an addiction?

Then also, look at those others in your life (and be very careful about not judging… and more about compassion and caring …),
Your family,
Your friends & peers,
Your co-workers,
Your youth (or other church members) group,
Do you see anyone falling in this direction?

Firstly – what can you do about your own situation?
Secondly – what can we do about the situations around us?

Now I have no real advice here – as this isn’t an area of expertise of mine, nor is it an area I’m trained in. I just am feeling that this is something extremely important to be aware of in your own lives. God designed the people in His world to be in relationship – with Him, and with each other.

What are you doing about your relationship with Him?
What are you doing about your relationships with others?

The line that defines reality and fantasy is blurring more and more with each new video game, TV show, movie, or social networking site. We all need to guard our lives, and protect those around us.

Pray that you’ll be given the wisdom to discern what needs to change in your life.
Pray that you’ll be able to help those around you who struggle with this blurry line.

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I can totally relate. I used to love playing Farmville on Facebook. My youth pastor husband came home one day and told me he had to see what Farmville was all about because many kids in the youth group were talking about it. I have a very busy life but I used to love the control that Farmville gave me. I was in control of how my farm looked, how much money it made and where I would spend that money. If I didn't like how I had set the farm up I could change it. Hours would pass quickly and the farm looked great, but my house did not. I tried to cut back by only checking the farm once a day but the addiction was so powerful. What I enjoyed for the control factor actually left me feeling powerless. Thankfully I left the farm and have never looked back.

What saved me you ask? God of course. I was selected to attend a conference for work. There was one session that talked about social media addiction and the signs thereof.

Some of these were:
- Sneaking a peak online so people won't see you and complain
- Ignoring real people to take care of virtual ones
- Reorganizing your schedule to allow more time for online interaction...

At the same conference there was a session on the science of happiness. What I learned was positive people have lots of meaning in their life. So as soon as I got home from the conference I deleted the meaningless farm. I told people I was quitting cold turkey so I would be kept accountable. I approached it in kind of a "12 Step" fashion. Some of my Farmville friends tried to convince me to keep playing to enable their addictions. I would say to them, "You do realize it is not a real farm, you are not earning real money, and nothing will really die if you quit."

Looking back I don't know where I found the time to play. Now I have re-focused my time into real people and meeting the real needs of my home and those around me. Thankfully, God has also used my short lived addiction experience to help others leave "the farm" as well.

Facebook is an ever so wonderful tool for connecting with those around us. When I first joined FB i was reconnected with my child-hood best friend, and with our small circle those child-hood friends, we all hung out for an evening.

You could say that my addiction to FB was fueled into flames at that point. I spent hours and hours searching for long lost friends, trying to rekindle lost friendships. Mostly all to no avail, but I refused to give up my quest.

I guess it came over time that I found that I was travelling down a road that I didn't need to go on, and then to focus on actual face-to-face connections - and develop those.

I love the fact that you posted those three signs of addiction - a plainly obvious way for others to see if they are travelling down that same road.

Social Networking sites can be so valuable, but they can be just as evil as they are valuable. The pendulum has swung too far in this direction, perhaps as youth pastors, parents, friends - as adults - we should strive to help to swing this pendulum back to a good balance between online friends and real human contact.

Perhaps this might be a good topic for another spilled salt.

Thanks Miranda for your thoughts. I encourage you to take your discoveries to your husbands youth group, and be a resource to help those who are travelling down the same road that you are.

God Bless you and your husbands ministry!

It's funny you should mention that you use Facebook to connect with old friends. Even when I read this post I knew that we went to highschool together, although you probably didn't know. In fact, I was good friends with your brother. Your parents and he were at my wedding where I married my youth pastor husband. I never knew you ended up as a youth pastor. Social media is a powerful tool that should be used as such. Another blog about social media addiction recognition would be a great topic for youth pastors. Thanks for your thoughtful insights. I have used my experience to help others - It's James 1 testament every time!

So I'm pretty sure I remember who you are - and if I'm correct, we didn't go to high school together, although we did go to the same church during our high school years.

Thanks for reading and replying!

You may be correct. I went to high school with your brother and sister. Thanks for replying and keep up the thoughtful writing!