Relationships in the Digital Age

Points to Ponder: Pastor Darin Phillips from Oceanview Community Church reminds readers of the importance of face-to-face relationships.

One night, a small little voice was heard from the bedroom across the hall: “Daddy, I’m scared!”

The response came quick: “Honey, don’t be afraid, Daddy’s right across the hall.”

After a very brief pause, the little voice is heard again, “I’m still scared!”

Again, a response: “You don’t need to be afraid. God is watching over you.”

This time, the pause is longer … but the voice returns, “Daddy, I want someone with skin on!”[1]

That story from James Hewitt’s Illustrations Unlimited reminds us that as human beings, we were created for relationships — or to say it another way, we have been “hard-wired” for relationships.

One interesting aspect of life in Canada in 2013 for many people is that a significant amount of relational time is not face to face, not touching “someone with skin on,” but rather through the digital avenues available to us such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting and e-mail.

I’m not an anti-technology Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. I have a Facebook page, text everyday, send e-mails and have been considering a Twitter account. At the same time as I have embraced these technological avenues for relationships, I wrestle with that voice in the back of my mind that puts up a cautionary flag.

What are the inherent downsides to these digital services which allow us to connect with so many people around the globe for minimal costs? What could possibly be bad about such opportunities?

After pondering this and reading an excellent book by Shane Hipps entitled Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, I believe the answer to that question is the danger of replacement.  The danger comes when we believe that replacing our face-to-face, handshake-to-handshake, hug-to-hug relationships with a Facebook message or a text is an equal trade. The words and pictures we send digitally are great, and I will personally continue to utilize them, but I’m also coming to the conviction that I shouldn’t rely on them.

This past summer, I had the chance to meet up with an old college friend, Tom. Tom and I have kept in touch with some Facebook messages and e-mails over the years, but when he and his 10-year-old son came to Ladysmith, it was completely different. I gave Tom a good bear hug and lots of “It’s so great to see you buddy!” statements.

Not surprisingly, the Bible, the word of God which has proven to be timeless in its wisdom and its truth claims for thousands of years, is still relevant to us who inhabit the digital age. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the newly-founded church in the Greek city of Thessalonika, Paul makes this timeless statement about human relationships at their best: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

So my challenge to you is to make time for the family, friends and neighbours that mean the most to you. Do not replace the face-to-face interactions with digital ones. Do not replace a hug with a text.  Do not replace a cup of coffee with an e-mail update.

Technology is good and keep on using it, but remember, we all need “someone with skin on.”

 

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