Disconnecting to Connect

Over on LinkedIn Hugh Macken started a discussion of a paper by Father Jonah Lynch in which I think the author decries technology to the extent that it reduces direct human contact. I didn’t love the paper mostly because I don’t think it met its objectives, but it is worth reading for the anecdotal examples on the shortcomings of technology. Below is my response to the article.
1- Author primarily uses his personal experience, which on the one hand enrich the “story”, on the other is limits the evidence to anecdotal.
2- His foundational point is that virtual relationships will never replace physical (face-to-face) relationships. I would replace the words “will never” with “does not yet” and I’d support replacing them with “I hope never will”, but as technologies converge (e.g. VR & SM)… I wouldn’t be confident with never. I have a strong emotional attachment to books, not e-books, not just the written word, but physical books. Interestingly, if I confined my reading to physical books and my personal interactions to only those who I met in person, I’d never have had the opportunity to contemplate the author’s idea. I am not ready to give up the “traditional” elements of a multi-media approach to communication (handwritten notes, face-to-face, etc), but neither should we eschew newer forms of communications.
3- His presumption that technology is not neutral is in fact a statement that it is negative. I disagree with that assertion. There are risks with most tools and those risks mostly have to do with the relationship between the user and the tool (and there is always a two way relationship).
4- I think Fr. Lynch did a reasonably good job of shifting the question to “what are trying to use technology to do” away from “how can the church use new technologies”, but I don’t think he provides answers, or even suggestions to answer either of those questions. Interestingly, I don’t think he actually voices his real question, which is: how do manage (avoid) the negative impact technology’s progression can have.
5- I think the best answer to his unasked question (I give credit to Warren Tomlin for the seed of this https://plus.google.com/116960642198693145361/posts/Zgq8CWKP4Pi ) is: Encourage the faithful to know when to go deep. Jesus regularly retreated from all the noise of his life to spend big blocks of time in prayer. We might not be able to take 40 days, but we should take regular blocks of time unplugged (do long form reading, hand written writing, having coffee with loved ones with the phone turned off).

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