Social distancing began with social media

I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. (3 John 1:13-14 ESV)

John reminds us of the value of being physically present and enjoying fellowship with other believers. I remember writing pen pal letters being a common way to correspond with friends from afar. In a day where long distance phone calls would be costly, a pad of paper, envelopes, and stamps were the cheapest way to communicate. When computers and internet became mainstream, they enhanced communications by digitizing typed messages and gave us the ability to send them in a matter of seconds.

Chat rooms became popular, then phone text messages, and now instant messengers via social media platforms. Digital photos and story posts have flooded the internet, so much that our faces are constantly staring at a phone, tablet, or computer screen.

Ironically, in a digitally connected world, I feel that we are socially distant because our preferred communications are through these devices. Whenever we are in public places, it would now be abnormal to not find someone on their phone browsing the internet or reviewing social media posts.

Social media linked the world, but but also divided our attention between virtual and real dimensions. We are in danger of becoming socially inept if we are not intentional about taking time to have meaningful connections with people. I am personally challenging myself to reduce my virtual time and increase my human contact time. Instead of sending an email, I am picking up the phone. And if I have the opportunity to visit, I will walk or drive even if it will be a brief visit. I don’t care if it seems inefficient or appears to be a waste of time. In fact, I want to give people time because they need a break from the digital world.

In-person conversations and story sharing are much more enjoyable because we get to experience a broad range of human emotions together. These moments are much more memorable than spending the day reading or gazing at a screen in solitude. They give life meaning and provide us with a sense of belonging. We are designed to be in relationship with God and others.

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