Lonely Virtual Islands
Much of our world today is made up of virtual reality. Social networking, text messages, online gaming, e-mails, even online church campuses try to combine our innate desire for community and the power of technology today. We love making “connections” with other people we meet through Facebook, Twitter, or any variety of networking and technology based vehicles.
There’s a problem though…our “connection” to those around us in a virtual world does not automatically translate to being connected in the real world. Someone can be “connected” to hundreds, even thousands of other people but still be a lonely island in the sea of virtual reality.
For example, how can someone have 700 friends on Facebook but still feel depressed and lonely? How can someone have hundreds of names in their iPhone’s address book but still haven’t had an in-person conversation with most of them in weeks or months?
Why do we forget that the people behind the avatars and screen names are actual people? Why do we say things online through e-mails, chats, text messages, and discussion forums in ways and in words that we would never say to someone face-to-face?
You can’t express your exact thoughts and feelings through IM or a text message because tones and inflections are limited at best and usually misunderstood, even with emoticons. For some reason there’s a massive disconnect between the names in our address book and the relationships that we really desire to have.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of social networking and technology. But it can be so easy to fall into the trap of keeping people at a distance in our lives. We have privacy controls and offline settings that let us maintain how deeply others can venture into our lives. We were never created to keep others behind firewalls and privacy settings in our lives.
If we don’t realize our God-created need for community and real life, face-to-face conversations, we can become nothing more than lonely virtual islands speckled throughout the sea of virtual reality.