There has been a lot of discussion concerning the internet and using the internet to accomplish good. And at the same time, it is important to remember that whatever the good is that can be accomplished with the internet, it should not replace or even diminish the importance of maintaining contact with real persons and real community. It becomes so easy to confuse the illusion of intimacy, friendship and community that is offered by the internet for the real thing in real life. As one writer has said, “Staying glued to screens and plugged-in to soundtracks makes it easier to ignore the people who live with us and around us.”
The result of this kind of social interaction, or social distraction, has been the development of shallow and superficial relationships and perspectives of life in general. One recent speaker has argued that this new internet community is causing us to forget about the meaningful and become numb to the genuine human needs that are going unrealized all around us:
“One of the essential problems of our society is that we’re losing sight of what is human in ourselves. We’re quick to go to war, and quicker to attend to our technological imperatives, and quickest of all at forgetting the truly human needs that are all around us. And that includes our own individual needs–those very special, mostly non-material things that would fulfill us, give meaning to our lives, enlarge us and enable us to embrace those around us. . . . I don’t think we can stay in touch with our song by constantly Twittering or tweeting, or thumbing out messages on our Blackberries, or piling up virtual friends-trophies–on Facebook. The time wasted sending a hundred emails about nothing could be time spent holding one person’s hand.”
If this is true, then how is the internet and our use of it effecting the fellowship of the church? Is the time spent in the illusory world and community of the internet assisting the members of the heavenly community in building deep meaning fellowship that reflects what will be true of us in eternity? My pointing in asking the question is not to bash the internet and online communities, but to ask myself if I am using it to assist me in getting to know others that facilitates face to face interaction and my prayers for them, or is it replacing spending time holding their hands–not just because it is human–but because it is sharing the love of Christ.
We must remember that we are technological people living in a technological age, and as technology can truly be used to accomplish some great things, and some fun things, it cannot accomplish everything–we still need face to face, real world interaction and fellowship with one another. We need to hold one anothers hands, cry with one another, and yes laugh with one another in person–emoticons just don’t fulfill Christ’s new commandment to love one another as he has loved us (John 13.34-35).