It’s no secret that the internet, and especially social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, has changed the way that people relate to each other. But how does has it changed our most important relationship: the one we have with God.
I wish I had time to really flesh this out, but I just don’t. Instead I just want to take a few minutes to “brain dump” some of my thoughts about this. If I get enough comments below then maybe I’ll put more time into this topic again some other time.
It’s so easy to write things to people and about people over the internet. Example: I was just talking to some youth pastor friends of mine today about cyberbullying over Facebook and how easy it is for people to write comments about someone on Facebook that they wouldn’t dare say in person, because they know how rude it is. The internet has a way of making us feel “faceless” and anonymous, even though what I write can be tracked back to me and I need to take responsibility for what I’ve written.
I think that as we grow more and more comfortable relating to other people “anonymously” through the internet we also grow more and more comfortable treating God the same way. We’re “friends” with people on Facebook; we’re “friends” with God because we acknowledge his existence and go to church every once in a while. We write posts on people’s walls; we shoot up prayers to God.
But what about actually calling people up and spending time with them? How many people over the internet would you actually call up to ask for advice or to share some new heartache? Instead, you just post it up to Facebook for the world to see and to comment on without any of the “messyness” real relationships.
It is absolutely impossible to create intimacy with someone over the internet. I know, I know… “But I’ve formed some really good friendships because of the internet.” Yes, that’s true – but if you haven’t heard the person’s voice, if you haven’t seen his/her tears or excitement IN PERSON, then you don’t really have true intimacy. Remember: Intimacy =“Intimacy is the joy of knowing someone fully and being known by that person with no fear of rejection” (Andy Stanley, The Seven Checkpoints. Howard Books, 2001. p.81).
I find the internet very helpful in initiating communication with some people that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate to. But when communication over the internet becomes my “default” there’s a dead end in that friendship.
Final thought for now:
Unless we work to maintain person-to-person friendships, endure awkward silences with others, don’t know what to say when the other person says something really difficult, and go out of our way to realize that real friendships aren’t always “convenient” like internet friendship… then I’m convinced we will grow to treat God the same way: like He’s “convenient” and impersonal and doesn’t require much from us.