Illusion of Companionship or the Work of Friendship

This post is a continuation of our series based on a TED talk delivered MIT professor Dr. Sherry Turkle that was posted on Scott Elliot’s blog, Resurrected Living. For the full video, go here.

In my previous post, Turkle talked about the Goldilocks version of friendship. Here she is exploring this a bit more:

For me, the most striking part of this section is the idea of technology giving us the illusion of companionship without the work of friendship.

We create the illusion by finding the level of vulnerability and transparency that we are comfortable with and that is how we project ourselves to our digital friends. Our status updates, texts, and emails are carefully crafted to project a particular image of ourselves without giving our real motives or flaws away.

This may work for a while, but it is unable to sustain relationships. How many relationships have been strained or broken because of a misunderstood email or Twitter message? How many text messages are misread because facial expressions are replaced with a ;)?

Or how many times have you seen a Facebook status begging for someone to go just a little deeper? I see this all the time with teenagers. After spending hours online interacting with pictures and status updates, suddenly a cryptic status is put up with the hopes that someone will do more than “like” it.

Now to be clear, technology does have the ability to increase community. This blog and the relationships it reflects would not be possible without technology. The problem comes, as Turkle points out, when we allow technology to keep us at a safe distance from others. Technology can be a useful tool in relationships, but only when it enters us into the work of community.

But even this is a fight. And I think it is because technology functions to bypass some of the necessary processes of relationships.

Technology wants immediate answers. Community is slow. It cannot be hurried and does not have short cuts. Community is about learning the mystery of another person, not just boiling them down to 140 characters.

Technology allows us to skip over “irrelevant” and “time-wasting” moments. Community is developed by sitting in the awkward moments. In relationships, as much can happen in shared silence as it can in a conversation.

Technology keeps my entire world revolving around me. Community is the process of learning how to lay down my pride and self-importance. It is scraping the callouses off of a heart that believes we only exist for ourselves. It requires us to let go of the things we feel are important so we can GIVE grace and forgiveness to another person.

Technology moves us towards safety, convenience and ease. Building community involves risk. It involves putting our trust in others by opening up vulnerable places. It is learning to make room to be inconvenienced by others. Most of all, true community is work. It is making time and space for a person in your life. Community cannot be done to or for you. It requires you to make an effort.

I’d like you hear your thoughts. What kind of “work” do you think needs to be done without technology in relationships?

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