Have you heard of the “Internet paradox?” It’s the theory that the increased opportunity to connect through social media sites has actually resulted in a lack of human contact. I think there may be something to that. I’ve sat in a room, visiting with a group of interesting friends, and watched as each one was distracted by what was happening in her own virtual world. Rather than talking with the real people in the room, Internet communication with “cyber friends” dominated the evening.
I’ve had many young wives share with me how the husband’s games and Internet activities invade their lives to such a degree that it often prevents intimacy and meaningful conversation.
I wonder if the explosion of social media sites are partially due to what I call “the loneliness factor.” We are created for community, wired for fellowship, but our society is experiencing fewer authentic and lasting friendships than ever before.
Some have suggested that the Internet is the reason for this. I don’t think technology has produced what I refer to as “the loneliness factor,” but I think the loneliness factor has contributed to the explosive growth of social media sites.
People are reaching out for low-maintenance friendships.
Who wants to risk the pain of rejection? (Not that there aren’t opportunities for certain levels of rejection online.)
Who wants to invest in someone else?
Who wants the hassles of real-life stuff?
Cyber friends are held at a safe enough distance that we can delay or deny their requests. We can choose to ignore or delete “friends” without them even knowing it. Cyber friendships are removed enough from our actual reality so that they don’t invade our personal comfort zone too often or make our lives too messy. Online relationships don’t require “deepening.” Shallow interaction is expected and trite responses are the norm.
I wonder whether a regular diet of these virtual communications is not only feeding our naturally selfish tendencies, but also warping our ability to develop deep levels of relating to others.
It seems that up close and personal relationships require too much. It takes time to have a meaningful conversation, it requires me setting aside my activities (texting, Internet games, google searches . . .) and pausing for “you.” Listening means I have to place my mind on the topic you have chosen as important and focus my thoughts on what matters to you. It might require me looking you in the eye and actually engaging in an in-depth conversation.
If you consider me your friend, you might ask me for assistance at an inconvenient time, or place expectations on me that I may not want to fulfill. Friendship requires that I give up something of myself in order to serve. Friendship means I might have to do things your way instead of mine.
Friendship requires a tough thing called commitment. Friendship might even obligate me to hold you accountable or speak truth to you when it would be easier to look the other way.
In other words, real friendship requires some real sacrifices and, in an age where most people live with the attitude that “It’s all about me!” the “rigors” of true friendship can’t compete.
What we’re talking about here is really a love issue. And true love is something our world desperately needs right now.
Are you longing for true friendship? Last week a young woman told me that she has no real friends. Perhaps that’s you, too. You may be willing to reach out and make the tough choices that a true friendship requires, but you’ve looked around and there’s no one who seems willing to accept your invitation. If so, I’d like to hear from you.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a “Friendship Survey” and I hope you’ll participate. I’d love to hear your responses!