Sunday, October 22, 2006

How Many People Do You Know?

If you hadn’t noticed or have been living under a rock or somewhere near Manitoba and are boldly holding onto long distance phone plans and Canada Post then you likely might not have noticed that it seems that whole world is connected via the internet. And, I suppose, by the simple fact that you are reading this you would already know this and don’t live in the flat wasteland. The words and sentences that follow are ones that I am unsure of how much I actually agree with and, to some degree, even care about. You may even notice a contradiction or un-correlated correlation when it comes to the role of proximity in relationships. It’s there. Anyhow…

There are many people writing the score for a tune that sounds something like this; “People are connected today like never before – proximity and geography are no longer!”
And it’s true. And so wrong. Or at least not too accurate.

Even in the world wide café of internet, msn, myspace, forums, chat rooms, blogs, youtube, limewire, or whatever where constant connection with other people is the norm; physical proximity to each other still holds the strongest links for deep relationship. There is popular speculation circulating among church futurists and marketers alike that suggests that everyone in the world will be linked via technology and that this linkage will radically alter how people know and are known. And, though it is true that many millions of people have formed weak links to each other through a variety of online sources, it is not true that it is going to radically change (in the near future) how humans connect to each other in meaningful ways.

Consider these words of psychologist Robin Dunbar; despite the fact that the worlds’ population is migrating to the cities and living shoulder to shoulder with each other “we still know only about the same number of people as our long-distant ancestors did when they roamed the plains of the American Midwest or the Savannah of Eastern Africa.” Read that again. If that is true, it is incredible!

Our own built in OS (operating system), the brain, is only capable of managing so many “links” at any given time. We were built with a capacity to only have so many relationships with so many people. The ceiling on these links is not limitless; the implication suggesting that the most significant links will still be the ones where human-to-human interaction is regular, in person, and online. Technology has played a role in adding to the frequency of these strong links but has not significantly created many more strong links.

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Heather said...

there was a comment in a book i read once. it said that there was only room for one or two, maybe three close friends at any given time. look at Jesus. he understood the meanings and circles of friends. Jesus had the Twelve, but he also had the three. Peter and the sons of Zebedee were with him at the Mount Transfiguration and were also invited by him to stay awake and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are room for more dear friends, but they are a little further out, in the next circle, like Jesus' Twelve. Close but not who you'd call in the middle of the night. I think that in the course of advancing technology it helps in the brief "hey how are you?" sense but not in the down to earth "i really know you" sense. i totally agree with you. it can help keep some of the intimate relationships together, but it cannot build them to become and intimate situation. ie: best friends. These new technologies shuold be used in the finding of potential friends and then be acted upon, in person, to make them a strong relationship. ramblings complete.

Markimus said...


I think that these thoughts are good but compares apples to oranges well as antrhopologically speaking might be slightly antiquated.

First off ... I want to hear more on this... I think your have touched on a very relevant topic but you have only skimmed the surface.

Secondly, The internet is a communications tool that enables the end user to be globally connected... can deep relationships happen online? Well lets maybe talk to the millions of people that are meeting daily online and that connection turning into a long term relationship... IE -
"Rick and I started chatting on here in May of 2005. Neither of us actually expected to find our soul mate online but as luck would have it we did. We were married last week. Thank you so much for making it possible for me to meet the man of my dreams! Louisville, KY"

Now this poses a question... are these relationships shallow, illegtimate and basically not real?

Or is the internet simply another way for people to connect [a fourth space as some would call it]?
Now here is the clincher... proximity is what keeps a relationship growing... but the internet will either spark and/or help maintain that relationship.

Now with the development of man and his innovation... one must think that people would connect in different ways than they did in the days of the nomadic tribes.
That being said maybe the capacity to connect is limited... which is true... but the variables are far greater [the playing field is bigger].
The internet is never to replace proximity is a tool to stay connected and develop new 'touch'

In conclusion...
It is a fact today that some of the most honest and deep talks [confessions and such] happen online. People are fare more honest online than they are face to face. That fact cannot be contested.
the most intimate acts... [sexuality] are done online [albeit in most cases in an unhealthy manner] Nothing like the real thing... but would it be wrong for a husband and wife to have online sex? how can we say that online is really not a legitimate way to connect?

Rob Petkau said...

There's an entirely new set of social skills for technology savvy relationships, only they aren't actually social skills at all. They are excuses to avoid the work and risk of real relationships.
(...not sure I entirely agree with what I just wrote... but mostly)

Markimus said...

Rob ... [I would have to say I am not sure you should agree withwhat you wrote]. They are evolving social skills that are more inclusive and they are not excuses... I am sure however thats what people said about the telephone 100 years ago. We are just not sure how this works so its awkward but REALITY shows us that it is working by the millions

Steve said...

Look at babies... a healthy baby recieves physical attention, is picked up, played with, and shown physical love and affection. Those babies grow up and are usually more physically stable and even emotionally stable.
An unhealthy baby (in this case) would recieve little to no physical contact, physical love, and affection. They have people talk to them all the time, yet those babies die after a few weeks because the basic need of physical affection simply isn't there.

Babies are human. So are adults. The internet is a tool for your hand to reach places where you've never been able to access before. It's kind of like a little kid reaching into the cookie jar with a go go Gadget arm, if you wil..

The internet cannot replace physical affection, love, and give an all around applicability to emotion. You can say all the right stuff to a baby, but if you never hold them, they die.
The internet is not a tool to do your bidding. It is a tool to reach into places, but physicality needs to back it up.

Jeremy Postal said...

FIrst off - no where did I say that the internet is an illegit medium for people to connect; it is an amazing communication tool. However, the internet, like any other form of communication that is not 'in-person' does not create MANY MORE strong links then before...all that it is doing is creating weak/soft links between people.

These soft links can be added or discarded without much thought or care (which I think maybe what Rob is pointing to in his anti-social social skills of intergeeks?).

Mark, do you think that this 'new touch' has the ability to replace traditional physical touch?

What happens when the many alter-egos of the internet are connecting with the other alter-egos? Is there any true connection? If one fake person is connecting to another fake person does that make the connection fake too?

Steve, good thoughts. You said, "It is a tool to reach into places, but physicality needs to back it up." Interesting though that that the internet used well can reach into far deeper places in someones soul then physical touch ever could....

Markimus said...

Jer...I understand your point ... my comments are not of the defensive nature either although it is my response to your post was to clarify potential thought processes that lurke beneath amoungst those that fully embrace the view you expressed.

We can never replace the touch of another human ... My point is that often times it becomes one or the other hi tech or hi touch... we must live in this tension and have both hi-tech and hi-touch. We must not and cannot eliminate either. In the moment when hi touch is not possible ...hi tech assists to maintain that connection.

I woudl also suggest that the alter-egos of those that use the internet are merely finding a place to allow that to be expressed. Is it bad? I think its a little extreme to say its fake. Alter-ego is still an 'ego'
Now when it comes to painting a picture of something we are not...fake? yes that is wrong but... lets not point that at technology... that happens everyday everywhere in every world... including that of Christian leadership.

Jeremy Postal said...

Yes! They must both be there in order to develop as a healthy individual. How often does the frequency of online contact actually increase the strength of real-lief relationships?! So often! Myspace, for example, adds not so much to the quality of relationships but to the frequency of relationships.

We live in a world that has given more priority to quality time then quantity time. I don't believe that there is much hope for quality time unless there is significant quality me, this means use any means necessary to add to the frequency of relationships.

Steve said...

I would be careful with the slogan of any means necessary... semantically of course. :P

However, I don't think being hi-tech is necessary. Of course, in our North American/Western World we think that we NEED technology... when really it needs us. We're growing dependant on it.

I was having a good convo with my roomie last night about his country, Croatia, and how it's not behind the times, it's just more deliberate. They don't get so much automatic things because the general mindset is that they don't want to be lazy (it is changing towards that though).

I think it's dangerous when we RELY on the internet to reach to those darker places that the 'physical' can't touch... is it the internets job, or is it Gods? Yeah, the internet is a great, and vast resource, but we so often just used the internet and stop there.
Physicality needs to back everything up, 100% all the time. It may not be YOU that's backing it up, but physicality needs to be there 100%, all the way. If you're not understanding what i'm trying to say, then so be it. But the internet is a sheild that most people put up, and only through it, can you acess them (like many of our youth) and physically, they're unpenitrable... why is that? Because the internet allows them to become something more, they can create an image, or a face for themselves in whatever community they choose to engage in...
I'm becoming more and more inclined to step away from the internet more than ever, for the sole purpose that it leaves something to be desired.

Markimus said...

All I can say "Commodus you go too far"

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Jeremy Postal said...

Steve - that is over the top man! Walking away from the internet is like saying, "I'm not going to use cell phones anymore!"

Churches, ministries, businesses, that do not use the internet will be left over, picked over, and might consider just saying, "we're over" because they won;t be communicating to a very wired culture.

Steve said...

I know it sounds over the top, and is highly unrealistic.

So, I do recognize that.

I prefer an in person relationship over an over the internet one. You know what i mean? Which is why, for one, that i'm glad that I actually got to meet Mark have slurpee's and hang out. It brought an element to this internet relationship that wouldn't be there otherwise.
Which again, I restate though that it may not be you being there physically for the person, but there needs to be someone there to kind of be there... does that make sense?

And by step away from the internet, I mean use it less for relationships and go and meet in person and talk because it is more personal. That's not saying it might not take time... but yeah. How about now, do I seem so radical?

Markimus said...

IT is time for another slurpee soon isn't it.