Intimacy shared.

I think, my children, that for me social networking isn't much fun.

I've been noticing my online friendships of late, just kind of observing what they are doing and what I am doing about them. Over the past four months or so I've seen less interest in myself to go over to a friends blog site or Twitter, or facebook site. I've wondered if I'm less of a friend or don't care any more about them or even if this whole internet connection thing is past due. That's really done a number on my head because it makes me feel less than whole.

These friends I have, now scattered throughout the world have fed my spirit in the past. We've shared deep moments and an occasional insight, and in so doing we've shared life. But lately it feels like there is really no life there in words or pictures on a screen. It's not that we are no longer friends, but for some reason I'm missing something from our friendship that I can't get from an online representation.

Finally it dawned on me the other day as I was leaving a comment on a good friends blog.

I wrote:

To be honest I haven't been hitting the blogs too much lately because, I don't know why. Something to do with always being with my friends in this virtual space and wanting so much just a good old face to face. My heart can only stand the distance so long and then it's hungry for a kiss on the cheek or a bear hug or even a pint across from a friend.


It's like half a relationship if you can only read about the person. If you never get to sit with them or be together then how does a relationship grow? Even with a live Skype video call, there is no place for sitting together in silence or moving together to another room or a walk or laughing at subtle jokes. This lack of intimacy is the biggest hole social networking has in it. It's networking socially for power's sake. For making bigger networks and having many followers. It's not for making and carrying friendships because it lacks the ability to share intimacy.

What I'm after in a friendship, is intimacy shared. Moments where hearts can be shared, honestly. Where laughter can be shared and joy celebrated. Where tears can flow and no words need to be spoken because presence is enough. In fact, it's everything.

When I add the online "presences" to flesh and blood connections, then it enhances our relationship. But when the online is all that we have, it feels like the life is slowly drained away from the connection, until it becomes a dried up empty shell of a relationship.

I'm wondering if there are many people out there, running around thinking they have hundreds of friends because they've been "Friended" by people. When in fact they don't. They don't even know what a friend is.

So I'm rethinking my online stuff. How does one create intimacy or shared moments with another human being? How do we build good friendships even with these online tools, or can we.

Intimacy.
That's really what we are all after, I think.

It feels like I have a better sense of myself and my own needs these days, and after months of kind of worrying about it, that realization makes me feel a lot better.

Seems I'm human after all.

16 comments:

  1. I completely understand the point you are making, Randall. I'll admit that I appreciate knowing what people are doing thanks to Facebook but there's no doubt that it is not a substitute for face-to-face contact. Today I had a very nice coffee with two friends one of whom has been going through a nightmarish situation that most of us couldn't imagine dealing with. This defamation of his character, such a helpful and strong character for the many years that I have known him, has caused people to be awkward around him and even alienate him. The rumors and false information swirling around has caused those who are not angry at him to be awkward around him or simply avoid making eye contact at public events. I wanted to get together with this guy at was afraid that it would seem like I was interested only in the messy details. The short story of it is that he was in need of a friend, someone who still trusts him and believes he is who he says he is and has always been, and today he opportunity to be that friend was given to me.

    Whether schedule conflicts or busyness or other barriers that prevent a lot of face-to-face contact for me I do appreciate the convenience of technology for maintaining communication. But as much as he appreciated having that friend to sit and talk with, I enjoyed it just as much.

    In some ways I feel like Facebook allows me to know a lot more of what people are up to than I ever knew before but the depth of that knowledge is still pretty shallow with the odd two or three string thread of a status or comment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interestingly, just last week I realized that I wasn't paying much attention to blogs anymore. I still want to maintain mine, but I have less interest in reading others. Declining visits to my blog and Dixie's seem to show a general trend online.

    O wonder if we've hit critical mass: people are suddenly hit with too much information, with too many social networking options, that they are losing interest or realizing that that intimacy is missing and simply moving along to something else--perhaps to more intimate flesh-and-blood relationships.

    (We'd better meet at an A&W sooner rather than later.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would agree with you that face to face is a huge desire. In fact, one of the reasons why I deleted my original blog is because I was so frustrated...people I didn't know felt like they "knew" me and people who I considered my friends opted to read the blog instead of connecting personally. That really irked me.

    But as of late, I have to admit that social networking is more powerful and effective than I would have thought. During our trip to Zambia, I got 3 out of 8 kids sponsored from people I have never met in real life, but only through blog/facebook connections. For me, there is a place for it, because while they will never sit in my living room, we are reaching each other. It is non-traditional, but we are bonded through common passions and children's lives are being hugely blessed.

    Real life is aways preferable - and I am seeking to find ways to meet these folks in real life. But as long as we are connecting, even if it is a less personal way, it is still changing the world.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I keep in touch with a group of fellow moms-of-twins, and have for the past 9 years. In that amount of time, I can say there's been a certain measure of intimacy built - but not really. I've met some of them in real life, but it's not the same as the every-day flesh and blood relationships I cherish.

    I just don't think it's possible to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships online.

    That said, I blog for me - not for anyone else. If no one visited, I'd still blog. And contrary to what others have mentioned about decreased blog traffic, etc - my blog traffic has actually steadily increased, as have my subscriber numbers. Something I'm writing about must be striking a chord with folks.

    I hope you keep blogging and tweeting, Randall. I've never met you, but for whatever reason our paths have crossed, and I appreciate what you write. I will say, I'll never forget that time I tweeted during "Wait Wait" and you asked if I was listening to it. 4 time zones away - how cool is social media?? :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. We're still developing our online relationships and how we interact. To a degree there's still the fascination with a 'new toy' and that's driven the switch from forums, txting and blogs through myspace, facebook and most recently, twits. Different formats suit different people too, so some naturally settle out in one format, some in another. But we're still searching for something too, and I suspect that friendship is what people mostly want, as you suggest.

    It's worth remembering that people have always done this kind of thing. In the last century pen pals were a bit of a thing, though I couldn't think of a reason to spend time writing to a complete stranger when I had friends all around me. Oh the irony.

    There is very definitely a small and distinct upper limit, for me at least, to the number of people I feel it's possible to have close online relationships with, and that number is about 5 people. My blogroll is almost 3 times that, and many of those people I still care about, but I couldn't claim a significant depth of relationship *through the blog*.

    Just one more observation: RSS completely kills the relationship thing *for me*. If I don't visit the blog then it's just words. In a way that's probably as near as it's possible to get to actually meeting the person - making the effort to visit their space. RSS is a great information aggregation tool, but it does what it says on the tin, and cuts away the relationship side. I can see that if one wished to maintain pastoral relationships with 40 or 50 people online it could be effectively a full time job.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We're still developing our online relationships and how we interact. To a degree there's still the fascination with a 'new toy' and that's driven the switch from forums, txting and blogs through myspace, facebook and most recently, twits. Different formats suit different people too, so some naturally settle out in one format, some in another. But we're still searching for something too, and I suspect that friendship is what people mostly want, as you suggest.

    It's worth remembering that people have always done this kind of thing. In the last century pen pals were a bit of a thing, though I couldn't think of a reason to spend time writing to a complete stranger when I had friends all around me. Oh the irony.

    There is very definitely a small and distinct upper limit, for me at least, to the number of people I feel it's possible to have close online relationships with, and that number is about 5 people. My blogroll is almost 3 times that, and many of those people I still care about, but I couldn't claim a significant depth of relationship *through the blog*.

    Just one more observation: RSS completely kills the relationship thing *for me*. If I don't visit the blog then it's just words. In a way that's probably as near as it's possible to get to actually meeting the person - making the effort to visit their space. RSS is a great information aggregation tool, but it does what it says on the tin, and cuts away the relationship side. I can see that if one wished to maintain pastoral relationships with 40 or 50 people online it could be effectively a full time job.

    BTW is prairie fusion suddenly all flaky for you guys too? I keep getting error messages.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sorry about the double post.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Now here's an interesting article to go with your original comment:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8701763.stm

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jay, actually it's good to read your tweets as you respond to life as it comes at you with wheels where your legs should be. It's kind of educational to see where a broken cable on your van will set you back a few days, and to watch as you deal with it patiently and get back on track for the week. I agree, I think these places can be great for that kind of information and education.

    Marc, I never realized how important those breakfasts were to the rhythm of my life and growth in relationship. Reading your blog was great but there was nothing like those early cold winter mornings getting down to the A&W for an hour of conversation, eggs, and Brent Butt's Brother.

    :)

    Christy, I was glad when you decided to make a comeback. Your frustrations with the original blog, I get that. It seems like you have been able to use your Blog 2.0 to educate and gather a few like minded people for purposes bigger than yourself. That's pretty cool.

    Kim, that was a surreal moment. Lauralea and I were listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR on Sirius Radio and they made a good joke, and just as we were laughing I turned on the twitter feed and you used a similar line and I knew you must be listening to the same show. That was a cool/fun use of the media. That shared moment was not insignificant even if it was just a laugh. It was a good connection point.

    Toni, yep yep and yep.
    The RSS thing I sure agree with. I don't want to read a piece of writing in some cold, externally formatted reader, I want the experience of the site and what the writer has intended for the site presence.

    At this point in my online career I think I'd like to go over to blogger for my blog. They've come a long way and the care and upkeep of a stand alone wordpress blog is just getting to be too much. You may have chosen what is better in the long run Toni. But alas there are no migration tools to go there.

    Now I'm off to visit that link.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think in a sense, online relationships might need a little bit more faith in the unseen. I think connections are real, because there's real people on both ends. I think for as many shallow connections there are, there's a few meaningful moments.
    I agree, it would seem that especially with younger folks knowing what a real friend is and a what a real conversation is could be indeed eye opening to many.
    Aside from a quick run-in in superstore, we've never had personal get together (best intentions aside). I trust though that you are working your way through things as best you can. And it is highly likely that our perspective of each other is somewhat one-dimensional; but that connection is still important to me.
    I agree though, being together is infinitely superior.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a lot of truly wonderful comments, as well as a post that shows me just exactly what we look for in blog posts - honesty and the things that really matter in a person's life. You're right, Randall, about the efficacy of facebook and twitter in making friends, but they are also a simple case of laughter or information. It's maybe easier for me because I have only a few contacts, but I just wanted to say please keep blogging. I have a strong sense that online communication can be a witness and a way of extending mission, simply by being what it is. An ongoing commentary on someone's life and thoughts. So thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. ...this (all of it) gives one much food for thought...I think a person (the blogger) knows who his/her most intimate friends are...the ones who really care. Randall, your blog is very important...for the intimate friends and all the others and if for some reason you take a 'rest' from checking out other blogs, that's okay. It doesn't seem to be too different from 'resting' from other types of relationships for a time... I know it certainly doesn't take the place of the face-to-face relationships we all crave and need, but sometimes we have to just 'be' and not 'do'...then we learn to know ourselves better...'specially if we're just 'being' with God. The Light goes on and the struggle fades...what matters matters and what doesn't doesn't.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I begin to add up my "friends" in my head some days, and then become scared I can never keep the "friend-ship" afloat. I'm bailing on a number of friends, while others want to jump into the boat and join me. Sometimes that gives a sinking feeling!

    Wouldn't it be nice to just count your friends as those within shouting distance. The older I get , the less my brain works with so many that I want to keep in mind.

    I'd love to hear more thoughts on this whole area. I've had a last few months where my computer "friends" are getting very little from me. Not sure just why.

    Perhaps there's a spiritual direction thing here - our souls are attempting to quiet ourselves? Maybe more activity is around the corner, but we have to be still right now?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, Randy, as faras relationships go, I have what I call, acquaintances and casual friends. As for close friends, I don't have many, in fact I just have one intimate friend so to speak. Sometimes I wonder about thatif you get what I mean. However, it is interesting to read about some of the people I do know, yet I can do without that also. I do enjoy reading some of your bloggers stuff, those that I know or have met and I have have learned some things because of it. Blessings, Randy

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a lot of truly wonderful comments, as well as a post that shows me just exactly what we look for in blog posts - honesty and the things that really matter in a person's life. You're right, Randall, about the efficacy of facebook and twitter in making friends, but they are also a simple case of laughter or information. It's maybe easier for me because I have only a few contacts, but I just wanted to say please keep blogging. I have a strong sense that online communication can be a witness and a way of extending mission, simply by being what it is. An ongoing commentary on someone's life and thoughts. So thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Social networking without face to face time, it's like reading the Bible without prayer. Intimacy at a minimum.

    ReplyDelete





I'm moderating all the comments these days.
Thanks.