April 19, 2012

The Disconnect of Connection

I came across this video of a TED talk by Sherry Turkle on Richard Beck's blog this morning. As I listened to it a couple of times at work, I realized how addicted I am to the illusion of relationship and community that social media can foster.

Some quotes from the talk:
"People text or do email during corporate board meetings. They text and shop and go on Facebook during classes, during presentations, actually during all meetings. People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting.  People explain to me that it's hard, but that it can be done. Parents text and do email at breakfast and at dinner while their children complain about not having their parents' full attention. But then these same children deny each other their full attention...And we even text at funerals. I study this. We remove ourselves from our grief or from our revery and we go into our phones. Why does this matter? It matters to me because I think we're setting ourselves up for trouble -- trouble certainly in how we relate to each other, but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection. We're getting used to a new way of being alone together." 

"How do you get from connection to isolation? You end up isolated if you don't cultivate the capacity for solitude, the ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don't have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we're not able to appreciate who they are. It's as though we're using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self." 

Going out and meeting up or having dinner with friends was once a regular occurrence in my life, now it seems like a special occasion when I can sit down with someone.  The illusion of community that Facebook and Twitter offer has all but killed real gut-level connection to my friends. Another reason that it's so easy to fall into this illusion is that it takes little emotional and spiritual energy to maintain the illusion. Upsetting news from someone on a social network just has such a smaller impact than hearing it from that person's voice, in their unfiltered, unedited words. Knowing that someone is crying doesn't bring us into the spiritual communion of hearing the sobs and seeing the tears. Typing some words of condolence doesn't bring their pain into our own hearts the way an embrace does.

"I see some first steps. Start thinking of solitude as a good thing. Make room for it. Find ways to demonstrate this as a value to your children. Create sacred spaces at home -- the kitchen, the dining room -- and reclaim them for conversation. Do the same thing at work. At work, we're so busy communicating that we often don't have time to think, we don't have time to talk, about the things that really matter. Change that. Most important, we all really need to listen to each other, including to the boring bits. Because it's when we stumble or hesitate or lose our words that we reveal ourselves to each other."

Solitude. Sacred space. It's where we learn to connect to God, where we are energized with His power to love one another as He loved us.

It's not all that uncommon to see people texting in church, taking phone calls, or browsing the web on a tablet. How does it affect us as the Bride of Christ when we remove the sacred solitude of the unified, corporate body communing with Christ and each other? I have to admit, that even though I leave my phone in the car during that time, I have a sense of worry in not being able to take an emergency call from work. My addiction to connection only serves to create a disconnect between myself and my brethren, and ultimately, God.

We, the Church, were made to be the ultimate social network...


  1. I love this vid! I don't text anymore (I had the service shut off in 2007 and haven't looked back), but when I did, I totally texted at a funeral. :-/

    Great stuff. Stumbled upon your blog via a comment you left on Rachel Held Evan's blog today. Looking forward to exploring it some more!

  2. And also, re: "We, the Church, were made to be the ultimate social network," ...AMEN.

  3. Thanks you so much for taking to visit and comment, Arleen! I've been finding some very interesting writing on your blog. Keep up the great work

  4. Descriptive Grace6/09/2013 01:06:00 AM

    The church is a place full of suspicion and hate. Everyone suspects the others are heretics. "Why I'll bet the guy in the next pew is trusting in some works" the Calvinist is thinking throughout the whole service. When they shake hands in the back "I'll bet this guy doesn't really believe in the Trinity." Oh hi sister so and so (I'll bet she's been fornicating!) It doesn't make for a good social network.