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.
tags: culture technology, relationships, online community, church future