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Loneliness and the Digital Age

I love the term Jay coined here—“lingering spaces.” These are spaces that not only permit, but encourage people to stick around—to have an extended conversation—to feel at home. Ben said, “There’s a search for physicality and a longing for simple things like a meal.” Community doesn’t just happen in structured, programmed times, but when people can connect in the simplicity being together—of experiencing full participation in a conversation as well as sitting through the pauses and lulls where we occupy space together without any burden to prove ourselves.

Where we can find in-person community touchpoints to wrap around our digital discipleship, it only enhances—it’s a compliment to discipleship— because at the end of the day, discipleship is not knowledge transfer, it’s not information, it’s a relational communal experience. (Ben Windle)

In Analog Church, Jay highlights the “Four Laws of Media” originally written by a man named Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s. McLuhan said that these four questions should be applied to every form of media, from telegraph, to television, to the internet:

  1. What does it enhance, improve, or make possible?
  2. What does it push aside or make obsolete?
  3. What does it retrieve that was previously pushed aside or made obsolete?
  4. What does it turn into when pushed to an extreme?

Jo Saxton mentioned last week that internet has certainly improved many aspects of long-distance relationships, but it’s kind of a long shot to make the argument that online church has improved local church relationships.

But there are many ways to innovate to make both digital and physical connection more fruitful for discipleship. I’ve been playing with the word “interplay” lately, as a concept to push creativity in church design. We don’t win ground for the kingdom when we pit digital against physical, or preaching against community engagement, or serving the church against serving our neighbors. We win when we bring those things together in the spirit of unity that Jesus embodies in John 17.

We don’t win ground for the kingdom when we pit digital against physical, or preaching against community engagement, or serving the church against serving our neighbors. We win when we bring those things together in the spirit of unity that Jesus embodies in John 17. (Derek DeGroot)

The interplay of digital and physical means what Ben said about “finding in-person community touchpoints to wrap around digital” efforts. The digital world is here and Christians are late to the game, but there’s still a lot of opportunity for Christians to innovate about how we use digital resources to create a bigger front porch, invite people in, and show them who we are. But once people are on the front steps and about to knock, you’d better have a living room, a comfy chair, and some drinks and snacks. Because if they only stay on the front porch and never take their coat off to sit down, that friendship probably won’t go very far.

This article about loneliness in the digital age originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. See www.briandoddonleadership.com for additional insights.