Monday, January 28, 2013

I share, therefore I am: how technology is making us more lonely

"Connected, but alone?" was a TED talk given by Sherry Turkle last February. It's an excellent look at the ways in which we are isolating ourselves in and through technology. We have a desire to connect more with people, but the ways in which we are connecting are actually making us more lonely. Check it out:

And here are some of her quotes:
"We're getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere, connected to all the different places they want to be. People want to customize their lives."
"We can end up hiding from each other even as we are all connected to each other." 
"Human relationships are rich, and they're messy, and they're demanding, and we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that we do is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection." 
"We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves, so a flight from conversation can really matter because it can compromise our capacity for self-reflection." 
"People get so used to being short-changed out of real conversation, so used to getting by with less, that they become almost willing to dispense with people all together." 
"That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationships with technology. That's why it's so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed: so many automatic listeners. And the feeling that no one is listening to me makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us." 
"Technology appeals to us most, where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We're lonely, but we're afraid of intimacy." 
"We are designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship." 
"I share, therefore I am." 
"You end up isolated if you don't cultivate the capacity for solitude. The ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself and where you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don't have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we're not able to appreciate who they are, it's as though we are using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self. We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone. But we're at risk, because actually it's the opposite that's true. If we're not able to be alone, we're going to be more lonely."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

To be deeply known and loved

I've been doing some thinking recently on the human desire to be deeply known and loved. I gave a talk last weekend at our student retreat on the subject. When I came back I saw my buddy Scott's post, where he talked about what it means to know and to be known.

Then I ran across what Jodie Foster said recently at the Golden Globes. After being given an award for lifetime cinematic achievement, being in the public life since she was 3 (46 years!), she said this:
I may never be up on the stage again, on any stage for that matter...I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It's just that from now on I may be holding a different talking stick, and maybe it won't be as sparkly, maybe it won't open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle, but it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here. I still am and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely."
Wow, what an honest expression. To be seen, understood, and not to be lonely. Isn't that what we all want? I think it is. But what is interesting about this pervasive desire is that we often work so hard against it. We are so scared to open up and be ourselves, because it could mean being rejected. So we hide from others and even ourselves. We put on masks to so that others will like us, but the problem is, they end up not liking the real us only the fake us. And we know that. That's why we say things like, "If you REALLY knew me..."

So how do we get to the place where we don't have to hide any more? We have to realize that there is One who already fully knows us (1 Cor. 13:12). We have to realize that He was exposed and rejected on the cross so that we wouldn't have to fear or face ultimate rejection. There is no one who knows us better than God and no one who can love us better than Him. He loved us first (1 John 4:19) while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Knowing this is what gives us the freedom to be ourselves before others. We don't have to hide anymore. We can be real because He whom we were created for knows us fully and loves us completely.

By the way, I don't know of a better expression of this longing to be deeply known and loved than Alanis Morisette's song, "That I would be good." No explanation needed. Just watch and listen: