The Digital Era!

When I was a boy, we received information through the local and regional newspapers, the county and area-wide radio stations and the bi-state television stations. These entities had names and call letters like: The Leader-Union, Decatur Herald, WFMB, KMOX, KSD and KPLR. And then there was the weekly little "rag" that I delivered - Grit Magazine. Grit was purchased by a 25 year-old immigrant in 1885 who started with a circulation of 4000. When I was in junior high in the mid-sixties and pedaling Grit throughout my neighborhood on a red Schwinn bicycle with two rear side baskets, circulation had soared to over 1.5 million subscribers. The core demographic for this newspaper was and is today, rural America. Grit still targets its information piece to families living in farm communities. Although no longer delivered door-to-door, you can still get a subscription to Grit and it can also be accessed online.
Ad photo used courtesy of
Grit Magazine,

Things have certainly changed in this digital age. I can receive the news on my smart phone and tablet by push notifications that make the delivery to these devices almost simultaneous to breaking news. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions continue to decrease while digital formats are on the increase. We are living in a digital age in which 225 million of us (77%) own a smart phone that allows us to access incredible amounts of information readily and "on the go!" We no longer wait on the delivery of the news by bicycle or car. We can get the latest and breaking news at the same time as the twenty-four-hour-a-day satellite news programs. And we certainly do not need to wait until the evening news programs of traditional broadcast television before we hear about what's happening around our world.

Having said all of what is available to us today in this digital world we live in, I still like paper and traditional delivery systems for the news! I like to hold a newspaper in my hand even if they are shrinking in size and volume. I still like to get in my chair for the 5:30 evening news program with my favorite reporters standing or sitting at news desks as they present the day's happenings. I know I'm old fashioned, but then again, I am old in these days since retirement! Will my counter-cultural preferences be a threat to this groundswell of digital delivery systems? Not at all! I just hope that all of this does not eventually do away with the tried, true and traditional world of human interaction and conversation.

This brings me to say that social media and other digital interactive systems are a great way to keep up with the news and each other, but they are no substitute for face-to-face, human-to-human interactions. This is especially true when it comes to mentor-mentee relations. Sometime ago I read an article about a seminary leader development program does not allow students to engage their primary mentors through digital means alone. A request to use technology to interact with mentors out-of-state was intentionally denied. This institution has concluded that mentors must meet mentees in person and carry out their conversations person-to-person in real time.

This requirement is for a good reason. Dan Steiner, former Mentoring Director at Denver Seminary, has written about "Companionship: The Power of Presence in a Digital Age" for their news magazine, Engage. Steiner says, "There is something formational about swimming against the cultural currents that downplay physical presence." I agree. Some of my most profitable mentoring experiences have occurred across a table at area restaurants sharing experiences with friends through person-to-person interaction. These occasions allow both mentor and mentee to engage in conversations that involve questions, answers, laughter, sharing of deep emotions, extended dialog and man-to-man, hand-to-hand prayers that cannot be shared and experienced through any other medium but by physical presence.

Invite a friend to lunch or a coffee date at a local eatery and put your smartphone on silent mode. Enjoy some good conversation and real face-time! You will be blessed!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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