Relationships and Friendships Enhanced by Proper Use of Technology – Observations and Ideas from C. R. Baugh and Kent Hotaling
Technology is a fantastic tool for not only getting work done but also for enhancing, supporting, and building friendships. Our technological advances are resources for connecting and for building and experiencing community. However, technology does not automatically do so. We must manage technology so that it does not manage us. It can be so enticing that technology can control us without realizing it. When that happens, our relationships become flattened because we no longer relate to people at the deeper level of face-to-face heart-felt communication.
If we let it, technology will shape who we are rather than letting who we are, and what we value, shape the way we use technology. One of the most insidious attributes of technology is that it becomes so enticing that we spend so much time with it that we have much less time to nurture friendships which are life-giving. It takes vigilance for us to keep from being ensnared by the lure of technology. Brene’ Brown, in her book, Braving the Wilderness, puts the issue in these words:
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the way we engage with social media is like fire—you can use them to keep yourself warm and nourished, or you can burn down the barn. It all depends on your intentions, expectations, and reality-checking skills.”
So, if we assume that the order of priorities for our lives are:
- A meaningful relationship with God.
- A high value and priority of time and involvement with family.
- Building deep and lasting relationships with friends.
A primary goal of using technology is to move beyond just being a tool for becoming more efficient but also to use all forms of technology for reinforcing, supporting and developing friendship, starting with getting acquainted to becoming a long-term or life-long friend who invigorates and inspire us. Relationships allow us to discover who we are because friendship provides a reflection for self-discovery that exists nowhere else: the deeper the friendship the greater the self-discovery of who God created us to be. Who would not want that?
It is important to understand the nature of our relationships with others. The word, “friend” is used in so many ways that it has almost lost any meaning as to defining relationships. Over a life-time we will have hundreds of “acquaintances”, but a relatively small number of friends. Some ideas on the nature of true friendship by thoughtful people include:
“One important difference between friendship and other relationships of care is the presence of mutuality. They are supposed to be mutual and reciprocal and we feel betrayed and used when they are not. Mutuality does not mean equality, but there is a rhythm in which the giving and receiving balance over time.” Sacred Companions by David Benner
“We are compelled by the law of love to receive in the embrace of love not only our friends but also our enemies. But not all whom we love should be received into friendship for not all are found worthy of it. We embrace many with affection, but yet in such a way that we do not admit them to the secrets of friendship, which consists especially in the revelation of all our confidences and plans. Aelred of Rievaulx
“The profound bond of joy and strength among those who are rooted and grounded in love is a far stronger tie than the shallow ‘liking’ and ‘friending’ of social media.” Staying Present Together by Deborah Smith Douglas
Other issues in use of technology
Technology Reveals our Insecurity
Technology reveals the insecurities that plague many people. We in the United States are especially beset by the insecurity that comes from trying to live up to the false standards that our culture promotes. This weakness in our society is clarified by the following quotes:
“We not only desire to do meaningful things, but we often make the results of our work the criteria of our self-esteem. We have sold our soul to the many grade givers. Then we think we are what the world says we are. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are important because someone considers us indispensable.” Out of Solitude by Henri J. W. Nouwen
“We live in a culture that rewards busyness and overextension as signs of importance.” The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith
With people in the older generations this has often manifested itself in the desperation to be significant that reveals itself in workaholism. And of course, this awareness that we don’t measure up, is also a driver of many kinds of addiction. With the Millennials, the struggle with insecurity is seen in the constant need to be connected (at least superficially) with others at all times. Sherry Turkle has quotes that address this:
“Joelle, a senior at a large state university, talks about her phone as a security blanket. It’s easy to feel isolated if you are not with your closest friends; people won’t talk to you. You can’t expect a lot from your peers – certainly not conversation. A phone always gives you a way to look busy.”
“Smartphones and social media have infused friendship with the Fear Of Missing Out – now a feeling so well known that most people just call it by its acronym, FOMO.”
Technology can never win our battle with insecurity – that will only be won as we learn to live with respect for our self and in relationships with others who have a growing wholeness in their lives.
Technology wrongly used limits our ability to be creative
Creativity is limited in at least three ways: The first is that when we are spending all our time and energy on the superficiality of the media world, or being consumed with video games there is neither time nor energy to be creative in ways that will enhance our lives and bring benefit to our society.
Secondly, we are using up our creative energy on things with less importance – like helping us to appear more attractive as we engage in the media world.
Thirdly, because we do not have as many deep friendships, the creativity that grows in a group of friends who engage with each other is diminished. Most of the small and great things that have brought better things to our lives and our world have come as people work in partnerships to explore, learn and create.
Technology can hinder our experience of solitude
To most people the loss of the benefits of solitude has little meaning because they have so little experience of solitude and thus no comprehension of what they are missing. Now this is something that we should “fear of missing out”! The following quotes give some indication of the powerful role solitude plays in helping us become people who have an inner security and who, therefore, are capable of deep friendships and bring creative and worthwhile contributions to the world in which they live:
“Developmental psychology has long made the case for the importance of solitude. And now so does neuroscience. It is only when we are alone with our thoughts—not reacting to external stimuli—that we engage that part of the brain’s basic infrastructure devoted to building up a sense of our stable autobiographical past.” Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle”
“I wonder if I am losing my inner simplicity to the age of information.” In the Ragged Meadow of my Soul by Sue Monk Kidd
When we are totally immersed in the media world, overwhelmed by e-mails – most of which we don’t even read – and spending hours with video games as a “break from the pressure of life, what will move us to engage life in better ways?
We probably know the answer:
“When we become inwardly and outwardly silent, alert, receptive, and attentive then ideas are not exploited to serve our purposes but to direct us to deeper wisdom, to a revelation of person, events, and things as they are in themselves.” Pathways of Spiritual Living by Susan Annette Muto
“Solitude reinforces a secure sense of self, and with that, the capacity for empathy: Then, conversation with others provides rich material for self-reflection.” Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
So we end where we began: Make a quiet reflective relationship with the Lord as our first priority; then live loving relationships with others and the digital world becomes the servant of these primary values.