Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why We Can't Handle Being Alone

I've jumped on the bandwagon.

  • I have a cell phone with unlimited text messaging (and have learned a whole new language: "u gng 2 a movie 2nite?") which I've found myself inadvertently reverting in my normal writing routines.
  • I'm on Facebook (passed 700 friends a while back. My rule is that I won't "friend" anyone I don't have some sort of personal relationship with) and voraciously check the statuses of my "friends", probably too much.
  • I'm even thinking about twittering.

But I'm starting to have misgivings about it all. I am wondering where all this instant availability will take us as a culture and what it will mean for the quality of our relationships.

Since we are made in God's image (i.e., for relationships), do we harm that image when we no longer look each other in the eye, hear each other's voice and spend time in each other's presence? And what happens to us when we can longer be alone?

Dallas Willard says that solitude (i.e., being alone) is the foundational spiritual discipline. In it, we are alone with God and really do find out if there is something to us. And if we can no longer really be does that fare for our future and our ability to truly be human beings made to reflect the (relational) image of God?

This article from the Boston Globe, "The End of Alone", confirmed some of my suspicions.

Some poignant quotes from it:

"What's fueling this? Conley says it's anxiety borne out of a deep-seated fear that we're being left out of something, somewhere, and that we may lose out on advancement in our work, social, or family lives if we truly check out. "The anxiety of being alone drives this behavior to constantly respond and Twitter and text, but the very act of doing it creates the anxiety."

"Loneliness is ubiquitous...But people are less equipped to deal with it. Rather than going deeper, they try to push it aside."

A short man-on-the-street video the Boston Globe did on the subject:

I'm not suggesting we jettison the technology, I'm asking how we need to treat it and behave toward it. Thoughts?


Josh Kleinfeld said...

check it out.

Juliana said...

Oh, stop bragging about how many friends you have! :-)

Honestly though, I think Facebook has helped me stay in touch with out of town friends (and reconnect with old ones) much better than I would otherwise. For me, that's a good thing. I like being able to check people's status and kind of have an idea of what's going on in their lives and then follow up with them.

I still make sure to have my "alone time" though. (I am a stay-at-home mom after all!) Seriously, that's really the only time where I can meditate, think and pray. I agree, it is absolutely necessary.

Anonymous said...

I am an old fashioned fuddy-duddy who refuses to subscribe to Facebook. I certainly understand the urge to stay connected--while I am deployed I have a deep compulsion to do so. However, there are so many people present to me physically who deserve my attention, who God has allowed me to impact personally. If I spend all my time catching up with the people who "used to be physically present", I will miss out on the here and now. No judgement on those who do stay connected in this way, I just can't afford to do it.

Your distant friend,
LCDR Brian Weigelt, USN

Dustin Harding said...

An email recieved from a missionary friend in Papau New Guinea.

            Awhile back Gail wrote a blog about personal and cultural identity (you can see it at, Jan. “Personality vs Culture”), as a missionary we are always struggling with living between two cultures, my colleges buddies just had an e-mail discussion about cultural change and it’s effect on marriage, everywhere seems to have a struggle between generational ideas of what is acceptable.  I was recently told by two PNG pastor friends on a committee that the missionaries needed to stick around from now “until Jesus comes back”.  They talked about cultural problems that they thought the missionaries helped to confront in PNG culture and in the church.  I replied by saying that what we needed wasn’t necessarily a constant presence of people from another culture but to help Christians get beyond their culture, I went on to explain to them how much of the American church is following western cultural ideas that we can’t seem to get past.  In fact it made me wonder if in the same way, the American church would benefit from some PNG missionaries coming to teach us about community, the importance of people over events, the ability to cope without the latest technology, etc…


Anyway, it seems I have been flooded with questions about who I am and should be.  Not only how do I get my identity but how do I decide who it is I am becoming?  If we are to maintain that the gospel is true, Christ’s power must be nothing less than revolutionary to our lives – I don’t mean simply in taking us from a life of gross sin to a life of observable holiness.  We have not really met Christ if it does not re-shape who we are and challenge us to think about how we view the world around us.  We must let God show us the way our own culture, age, or peer group has tainted the way we see every aspect of life and kept us from living out His truths.  The Christian should look different in the way he works, treats his family/marriage, treats strangers, looks after the poor, lives responsibly towards God's earth, submits out of love to others, considers the needs of others,... 


Consider the ways in which the scripture tell us how truly changed we should be.  We are to "come out and be separate", "let our light shine before men, "let the word of God dwell richly" in us, to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind" being able "to test and approve what is his good, pleasing and perfect will", to be "remade in the image of our creator", "reflect the Lord's glory, being transformed into his likeness", "regarding no one from a worldly point of view", "being Christ's ambassador's", with the realization that "our citizenship is from heaven," that we are already "with Christ in heavenly places"... and in every other way God tells us again and again that he expects us to be like Him and that this will cause us to be a light in a dark world.  We are to reflect God's ability to change and transform our lives, not just our Sunday habits or the rules we follow. 


            The test of whether or not our lives live up to this is simply the display of the fruits of the Spirit.  Do my words and the tone of my voice, my actions, my reactions, the way I spend my time and money, the way I treat others,… do they show God’s power to make my life overflow with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?  1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that what we accomplish is not as important as our motive, attitude, and way we do what we do – that is it is all about experiencing and reflecting God’s love. 


My prayer for you and I hope your prayer for me: Phil 3:12-14 "Not that I have already attained all of this or been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me....forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 


In Christ


Meghan W said...

Let me begin by saying I am generally speaking a technology junkie. I have Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (which I now check fairly rarely due to the high smut content). I have several blogs and follow many more. I have a number of websites. I have 3 email addresses I check regularly. I go to chat rooms even. And in all these things I have found ways to glorify God, spread the gospel, and encourage fellow believers. I didn't think it was an issue.

Then God had me give up Facebook and Twitter for lent (along with some other things). Being on day 16 I can tell you that life without the "noise" has made a HUGE difference. I don't think I realized how much the steady stream of little interruptions was costing me.

Do I plan to give them up for good? No. I don't think He's asking me to - as I said, I use all those things a tools for His kingdom - but I think that it's a culture that it is too easy to get swept into and lose all moderation.

Like the girl mentioned in the video - everyone keeps Gmail open on their desktop - and yes, I did keep everything open... and could easily lose hours just doing a "quick" check of all the technologies. Balance is key. But you're trying to maintain balance in an environment that seems to draw you in further and further, requiring more and more of your time. Yet to be able to justify participating, you have to be able to do so without damaging your relationship with God and general sense of balance... in God's grace, come Easter, I'm hoping to find that balance... and maintain it!