Hollow People

Michael Metzger

In days of old it was important to live up to your given name. Logan Lane’s story reminds us that’s not always the case.

If you pay attention to social media a recent article on Logan Lane might be of interest. The 17-year-old grew up in Brooklyn as a screen-addicted teenager. Like so many Gen-Z teens, Logan spent hours curating her social media presence on Instagram and TikTok. Then, a little over two years ago, she started questioning whether a screen-addicted life is healthy. She decided it wasn’t, going cold turkey by ditching her smartphone and social media.

With the help of friends, Logan formed a “Luddite Club.” Most imagine Luddites as angry workers opposed to technology. That’s not true. Luddites recognized the benefits of the Industrial Revolution but worried, as Carlyle put it in 1829, that technology was causing a “mighty change” in our “modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand.” His concern was our technologies make us no longer human.

C. S. Lewis shared this concern. He felt “the Age of the Machine” (i.e. technology) is dehumanizing.[1] Lewis was an “Old Western” man, an age when technology was a branch of moral philosophy which shaped the heart. This shaped how we imagine technology, recognizing that just because we can make a technology doesn’t mean we ought to.

But that was long ago, in the old Western world where it was believed “the head rules the belly through the chest” (heart). It is in the “middle element,” Lewis wrote, “that man is man,” or human. When this middle element is missing, we become “Men without Chests.”[2] Hollow people, which is how T. S. Eliot described us: “We are the Hollow Men.”

Hollow means being spiritually and morally empty. Eliot and Lewis were prescient. Look around. Most Americans stumble through the day with their head buried in the phone. They’re hollow people, unable to fathom going through a day without social media. Independence from their smartphone feels impossible. That’s because they’re hollow.

Which brings us to Logan Lane. Her given name is derived from the Scottish Logan, which refers to a place in Scotland named lagan, the diminutive of which is lag, which means “hollow.” Living up to your given name was important in days of old. Logan’s story reminds us that’s not always the case. She’s not lived up to her given name, and benefited from it.

Which brings me to two suggestions for parents, since they give their children their given names. Logan Lane had to go cold turkey to get clean. Addicts often have to go cold turkey to get clean. Social media is addictive. Addictive technologies shrink attention span and mental capacity, making us less human.[3] Many tech giants recognize this. They create social media platforms and content but don’t let their kids on it, or strictly limit how much technology kids use. That’s ironic, but it’s also instructive. Going cold turkey might be the best way to keep your kids from a screen-addicted life.

Which brings me to my second suggestion for parents. Research reveals that spending extensive time on social media “shallows” our neural pathways.[4] Parents that spend extensive time on social media are shallow people. Shallow people are hollow people. Hollow people forget how Jesus said getting your kids clean is not enough.

That’s grist for next week’s mill.


[1] C. S. Lewis, “De Descriptione Temporum,” Inaugural Lecture at Cambridge University, 1954.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (Touchstone, 1996), 35–37.

[3] Maggie Jackson, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age (Prometheus Books, 2008).

[4] Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010).


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