The other night I was relaxing by a bonfire with some friends. My friend Spencer asked questions about the book I’m writing. [If you want to read more about it, go here.] Spencer read the preview chapter I offer to my email subscribers, and pointed out something about the chapter I had thought about before, but not to the extent he was inquiring.
I’ve worked on narrowing the focus of the chapters to a few recurring themes around which the book will center. One of the main themes emerging in my writings is the value of community. Sitting across the bonfire, Spencer asked me if the book is about community as it’s evolving in this ever-changing multimedia landscape. I looked at him and said, “I haven’t fully thought that out, but I think you’re on to something.” Perhaps that is a specific subject a book deserves to be written about.
Relationships in the Digital Age
It’s easy to connect with people these days, with the advent of convenient digital communications channels. Social media offers us all a chance to connect with everyone we know and more, even around the globe. But have we paused to consider what digital connections are doing to us, to our real life relationships?
I once read a story about two friends who had a relationship built over many years. They even lived merely a few blocks away. As they both spent more time on their computers sending emails, text messages, updates on Facebook, ideas over Twitter, and other digital passageways, they spent less time together in person. They still connected and communicated frequently with one another, but something was missing. After a while, each of them expressed their feelings of loneliness setting in. Regardless of their apparent digital connection, their real relationship was suffering.
So what was missing in their relationship? What is so important about connecting with people in person, crossing paths in day to day life?
The Humanity of Community
Part of the human condition is to crave intimacy. Our personhood insists we spend time in open, honest, face to face relationships with other people.
Something amazing happens when we sit down over coffee with a friend, or over a meal with family. We may not all agree on all the subjects that arise, or feel comfortable enough to share personal stories with everyone at the table, but we are meant to live in that tension of interaction.
Community is the space in which we learn to be ourselves. [Tweet that.]
Community is the context in which our lives find support and inspiration.
Community is what you and I are made for.
We need to engage in real, face to face relationships. We need people to encourage us, hold us accountable, to allow us to share who we are. We need the authenticity of unedited, imperfect real life to shine through the polluted, shallow waters of digital networks.
If you’re hiding behind profile photos on social media platforms, step out into real life for a moment. If you’ve retreated to a pixellated screen instead of confiding face to face in a friend, take a chance. The risk of relationships in community far outweighs the shallowness of digital connections. Engage in community with other humans trying to figure it out, too.
How do you engage in personal community with other people in this inundation of digital connections? Answer in the comments below.