Its foundation is a breakdown of the means by which people enter into each others’ lives in a meaningful way, a replacement of genuine communication with superficial substitutes. Whether it is the substitution of “open relationships” for marriage or the substitution of “family TV” for time spent together, the effect is the same: The existentialist nightmare pictured in Sartre’s “No Exit” has come to pass.
We live and breathe and move through life surrounded by other people and yet remain in lonely isolation.
Perhaps the greatest culprits are the World Wide Web and the cellular phone. I have walked in on enough MSN chat conversations and looked at enough tweets and posts to know that for the most part, Internet “communication” is well described by Macbeth’s epithet: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Only perhaps without the fury.
Read the entire article. My guess is that you'll agree with some points and not with others.
Technology is a good thing, but it's no substitute. I'm amazed by the people I've met via blogging, and the connections I'm making in other social networks, but I grew up without this stuff. For me, it's not a real connection unless we meet in person. Maybe the connection comes close, and certainly, there are people who are pen-pals for years, so in that case, I'd argue a real human connection.
But for most of us, our internet "friends" are superficial. They fulfill a need in some way, or, if they don't, they're gone and forgotten.
Harsh, isn't it?
It's not the way we're designed. We are made in the image of God, designed for intimacy, our society built upon something solid, not the intangible and fragile universe of computer components. When we type, real people just like us read the words, and when we read the words of others, often they have a very real impact upon us. Flamers hurt us on two levels; both because they suffer from so much hatred that it exudes from their fingertips when they can hide behind an alias or ISP, and because their words are things we'd never want to experience in real life...and yet...we do. The words in writing, I'd argue, are even WORSE than in person because we'd never hear them in person even if we knew they were there, hiding behind the eyes of our interlocutors.
But there's a problem with this social interface; it isn't real. Yes, those of us who have a certain balance in our lives recognize the humanity of others, but I'll still be the first to admit that I've spouted off online where I would have held my tongue in real life. And in that, I've realized the de-humanizing aspect of the internet, and have tried to take care not to take it too personally when someone ruffles my feathers.
It's not always intended, but it happens.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I went to Ohio last summer; because it wasn't sufficient to "know" people via internet, but for real. To connect in real life, for that friendship can only be fulfilled if we can look at each other, if we can speak in person, if we can embrace, and carry our friendship from the keyboard into reality.
Sure, the keyboard connections continue, but they have much more depth now that we know each other.
It is a deprivation to connect...but not complete the connection.
One of the things that concerns me about the abundance of internet socialization is what it is doing to our youth. They spend their days texting people they may never have met...and may never meet. And they don't have the discernment skills to know if they SHOULD take steps to meet those others. They have their most "meaningful" conversations via an iphone which completely disconnects them from emotion or valid intimacy.
And adults who should know better fall into the same trap (lest someone think I'm picking on teens. I'm not.)
Social networking is a tool, not a way of life. If we focus only on our fragile online connections, we'd be lost.
There has to be a balance.
In my own experience, I've experienced some wonderful friendships, and those that are real, and involve real connections, continue to grow. Those that do not fall away. It's not to say that the people at the other end are less worthy of friendship! I only wish I could meet all the wonderful people with whom I've connected online!
But the reality is this; we all have to tend the relationships around us, too.
Today I was invited to a Super Bowl party at a friend's house. We haven't "hung out" for a long time, and I turned it down tonight not because I didn't want to spend time with them, but because I have laryngitis. (It doesn't make a lot of sense to go hang out with friends and sit there silently when of course, we WANT to chatter up a storm. Which I would do in spite of my vocal problem!)
Instead, I spent some time online, here and there connected to people I've never met, commenting on the Super Bowl and the attendant commercials. Yes, it was fun. But a real connection with dear friends would have been better.
Again, we have to have a balance; online networking is great, but we have to make sure we foster our friendships in real life, too.
And as the article says, we have to be willing to be disconnected from ALL of it; to experience solitude in the honest sense of the word, and in that, know ourselves, and know the God who made us.
If we're not taking that time, then no friendships in the world are going to help us.
Ultimately, in all of our social connections, we're looking for God. But if we don't take the time to seek Him in solitude as well as through others, we'll miss Him entirely.
Let us not let technology run our lives, and let us not redefine friendship according to the definitions assigned by social networking, but rather, by our inherent design that demands real personal interaction fueled by knowledge of who we are in relation to God.