Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Connected; Less Connection.

I am finally learning to communicate through text messages on my cell phone. Wouldn't you know it, a teenager showed me how.

Text messaging provides a whole new medium for communication. I am occasionally in places where I cannot make a call, but now have the option to text. Since most people in my life are also texters, I now have the ability to communicate with them at times and in places where I would have been unable to before.

I feel better connected.

Text messages keep me in touch with my world today. FaceBook connectes me with the world of my past. Through FaceBook I have found friends that I have not heard from in fifteen years or more. Highschool friends, college buddies, ministry colleagues; I am back in touch with dozens of people who have been part of my life.

I feel better connected.

Despite the advances of the last few years, I continually cling to means of connection that have served me well all along. I still check and send e-mail. In fact, for the parents and adults involved in my work, this is one of my best tools for communication.

I have been connected for some time, you see. Now, I am simply better connected.

Or am I?

The other day I found myself in two different text messaging conversations, one right after the other. I had nothing else to do at the time. I was free for conversation, they were too. It would have been great to hear their voices. We spoke only by thumb and keypad.

Both of these friends were from days gone by - people I used to talk with face to face. Back in those days each of these friends had confessed to me their struggles, their sins, their pain. I know them, you see. I know their stories, their past.

Who wants to be reminded of their past?

It is precisely because I know them that our conversation never went deeper than the local weather. Any of us could have dialed our phones and engaged in genuine conversation. We did not. That could have been hard. That may have truned awkward. Better simply to text.

Am I, in reality, becoming disconnected?

I read a friend's post on FaceBook today. A note bemoaning the silence she perceives from all the stagnant faces on her friends list. She herself had written notes, posted messages. She received little in return.

I know the feeling.

FaceBook connects us with almost anyone we could imagine. We can write on walls and send messages to people all over the globe. How rarely they respond. How rarely those conversations go much deeper than our texts, and all for the same reason.

If I don't like what you have to say, I can delete your message. If I don't want to answer your question, I choose to simply ignore your text. This phenomenon is not entirely new - how many years have you ignored or deleted unwanted e-mails?

Are we all becoming disconnected?

Could that really be true? In an age when we are more connected than we have ever been?

It is time we engage people face to face, voice to voice. We need to look into one another's eyes and share our full range of emotion. I need to see your smile as I talk about that funny thing my kid did the other day. I need to sense your compassion as I share with you my deepest fears. I need you to ask me hard questions. You need me to ask those same questions in return. We desperately need to see each other cry.

We have to learn together how to work through conflict. Yes, work through conflict - not simply delete that unwanted message or avoid that uncomfortable text.

We need to be mentored. We need to live and breathe alongside others who are older and wiser than ourselves.

We must practice accountability. We will never bear one another's burdens if we refuse to share them in the first place. Such conversations do not take place via instant messenger.

Discipleship. Accountability. Celebration. All but impossible to acheive in a world that begins and ends with text messages. To be sure, the technology of today allows us all more extensive relations. Proceed with caution: the price we may pay is deeper relationships.



Hilary said...

Teaching at ACU has shown me this problem, as well. My students find connecting with me difficult, since they never have to do it anymore. It's such a shock to them that I want to sit down and have a conversation with them about their lives and the issues we may be having in class! I'll be praying about this, too.

Franklin Wood said...

Great post, man. I have noticed this as well. For example, sometimes nobody speaks on a group you have created on Facebook!!
I have left messages for individuals also, and heard nothing. It makes you wonder if you felt close to somebody, but they were just faking.
On the other hand, last week I received a text from one of my teens that said he was praying for us. You see, we got a call the day after Thanksgiving that my wife's grandpa had died.
I thought it was pretty cool that he was thinking of us.
Are you gonna be at NCYM? I'd love to hear how things are going for you guys.

Rosalinda said...

I am so grateful for Facebook, though... Living here in Uruguay has made us physically disconnected from our past, and from our emotional and spiritual support. Even the short messages we get help us to keep on going on the hard days. And it is just delightful to read what's going on in your lives there, even if I don't usually comment! I deeply appreciate your sharing yourselves with those of us who are in your past.

Still... I know what you mean. We are having to find the people here with whom we can share more deeply and connect on that level. It is hard, at first, but we need to keep making that effort. Thanks for the reminder.

Kari said...

What you're talking about strikes a nerve in me simply because I am disturbingly aware of the fact that I do NOT want to take on the additional responsibility of knowing peoples' stories unless I know that I would actually continue to maintain that level of depth with them.

There have been too many people who have opened themselves up to me, when I haven't asked for it, and then gotten hurt when I didn't reciprocate. Or even vice versa.

It's hard to think of taking on the responsibility of another person's past, struggles, and future accountability because it means that you're starting a relationship that will require work. Work from you, and work from that person--and there's always such a danger of one or the other not giving enough or taking too much.

Sometimes it's easier to just maintain acquaintanceship. There's no risk. There's no awkward. There's no commitment. You can get away with a "hey, how's life?" every now and then and wind up talking about the weather.

You're right; technology has helped disconnect us, but what we have to keep in mind is that the connection in itself is a risk.

Dave Blanchard said...

Well said, Kari.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to tell you that I enjoyed this but I can't find my phone to text you, so I'll try this, good blog. I also blog and share your insecurities regarding the egocentricism about blogging. there's a "De-Motivator" that says, "BLOGGING - Never have so many said so little to so few." It was hilarious. But I love having a place where I can store some thoughts. Yours gets read much more than mine does but I don't give a rip.


Court said...

Dave, I think you're right: We're so connected that we've become disconnected. We're in touch superficially with so many people that we're in touch intimately with none of them. We've confused quantity with quality.

I think our long-distance relationships would improve if we banished email and went back to hand-written letters. Yeah, 90% of our contacts would disappear...but the ones that were left would become deeper. :o)

Grüße from Oklahoma!!!