I met a good friend at a coffee shop this morning. This is the friend who has decided to stop communicating with us via e-mail. She has decided to go back to phone calls and letters / notes written by hand and mailed because she thinks that all the electronic means we have of connecting with each other actually drives us apart. She says we feel like we’re connected because we know what’s going on with each other, so we don’t bother to make a phone call or set up a coffee date because we’re all “too busy.” After a while, she says she feels lonely – is this really friendship?
I’ve been thinking about her luddite stand – I don’t know that I agree with her, but I do think there’s something strange about e-mail and facebook and twitter. Do these really help us connect with other people? Can we nurture close relationships electronically?
The truth is that I need to hear my friends’ voices and have face-time with them and with my family to feel connected with them. Connecting with people through e-mail doesn’t substitute for a hug. It’s like with writing … hand-writing a creative piece and typing one produce pieces with a very different feel to them. I have no idea why, but I’ve observed it in my own work and in other’s. Relationships that are nurtured electronically have a different feel to them.
I’m thankful for email – no question that it simplifies my life. Through facebook, I’m reconnecting with old friends – mostly from college. These are the people that I’ve failed to send holiday letters to for several years, due to teaching pressures and to school pressures. Now I get to see their family photos and keep up with them and they can do the same with us. That’s nice.
But my buddy is right – it’s not quite the same as hearing their voices.