As We Communicate More, We Communicate Less

Tim Challies wrote an article for Boundless.org entitled The Pain of Loneliness. In the article, he writes about a challenge made by International Center for Media and Public Affairs to 1,000 university student worldwide. The challenge? Go on for a day without checking e-mail, logging in to Facebook, using a cell phone, and turning on the television. In short, spend 24 hours without using any media at all.

The results were “striking and consistent with a growing list of similar studies”:

The students who participated in this study learned that in the midst of all of their e-mailing and Facebooking and text messaging they are actually sad and lonely. All this time they had thought they were forming deep and meaningful friendships. But as their phones and computers were taken away, as they unplugged, they quickly saw that most of their friendships, and even the friendships they thought most significant, were trite, ethereal. When media was taken away and the students had to spend a day outside the glare of their screens, they found that face-to-face interaction was difficult and unnatural. They longed to have their devices back in their hands so they could discuss this strange discovery. (Emphases added)

Striking indeed. It made me ask: Is this true for me? Am I actually sad and lonely? Am I just having shallow friendships instead of deep ones? I hope it isn’t.

Challies writes about the results:

They offer a penetrating glimpse into the painful emptiness of the digital soul. In an age of constant amusement we are sad; in a world of constant communication, we are afraid and lonely. All the time we spend communicating through our devices must come at the expense of something. We are finding that, ironically, it comes at the expense of genuine, meaningful communication. As we communicate more, we communicate less.

Challies is right. Our “mediated” communication is ever increasing. But it is, sadly, at the cost of genuine and meaningful ones. I couldn’t agree more on this: As we communicate more, we communicate less.

We need to ask ourselves some questions: How many “friends” do we have in the digital world? And how many friends do we have in the real world? Is the level of our face-to-face conversations the same with digital conversations? Or the former lagging against the latter?

Challies continues:

It warns us that many of us are lonely, subconsciously believing that a vast quantity of digital communication can compensate for the poor quality of so much of that communication. Instead of having one or two deep friendships, we have 50 or 100 shallow ones. Instead of meeting one person face-to-face, we send thousands of e-mails to hundreds of people. But the frantic nature of our online socializing is an attempt to numb the pain of loneliness.

It warns us that mediated relationships may supplement real-world, face-to-face relationships, but they cannot replace them. A man with 100 Facebook friends is still a lonely man. A man with two significant real-world friends considers himself blessed.

I would rather have one deep friendship than a hundred shallow ones. I’ll do anything for even a single deep friendship—a friendship that I’d be willing to give my time and energy, and even my life, with.

Challies ends the article with this:

What a loss it will be for the world and for the church if, in the midst of all of our communication, we lose the ability, we lose the desire, to communicate with those we’re meant to be closest to.

And my heart cries out: “What a loss! What a loss!”

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About Enzo Cortes

Enzo Cortes is the Youth Coordinator of Jzone Makati, the youth ministry of Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati. He also speaks for various youth and young adult groups, including CCF Makati's young singles ministry, Friday Night Light. He loves to write, read books and blogs, drink coffee, and watch MMA fights.

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