Written July 4, 2007
Technology advances rapidly before us. We can meet online, chat online, instant message, text message, shop from home in our underwear. You name it, we can do it--and it's probably only a few key strokes and a mouse click away. But I wonder somewhere in the promise offered by all that this digital world contains, are we losing something greater. It is something in my soul that feels depleted after I've sat on myspace or downloading music for two hours, or spoken in e-mails and comments to friends whose voices would be a better sound than the clicking keys and songs on their pages.
Sometimes the day fades slowly into night, and I get up from my computer to look out the window and am overwhelmed by that same strange feeling that knocks heavily on my emotions when I've taken a nap or gone into a movie while still surrounded by light, and then wake up or step out of the theatre to be met by darkness. A feeling as if something precious was taken from me, but I sat preocuppied with idle things, things of no value or consequence.
Why is it that we don't go out and look at the stars anymore and just breathe in that which God has created for us to enjoy--the intoxicating sight of the fierce and familiar mountains hemming us in, the rush of rivers that cool themselves in their run under the blue sky, the vastness of sand spilling over the desert all waiting to be touched by human hands and feet or at least the rubber tread of tires or smooth belly of a boat? But no, we search the web and pull up a picture on our computer screens settling for the flawless images made by men's hands rather than the wild beauty spoken into existence by the voice of God.
And then, after poring over these images, we place them across our home pages, backgrounds, web pages, profiles and the like. And just like the mouse in Laura Numeroff's book, for whom the cookie was not enough, we add pictures and search for the perfect songs and answer preset questions on the pages. Questions that we have, for some reason, become afraid to ask and answer in real life--person to person. Most of the questions on my myspace are questions I haven't been asked since freshmen orientation and my FYX class at Mercer-and that was becuase the OA's or someone in ResLife or FirstYearExperience realized they were good ice-breakers and essential keys for us to begin the journey of knowing each other so...they forced us to ask and answer the entire year.
Now, we just click on a profile to see what someone's doing, who they're talking to, dating, mad at, in love with... We want so badly to know others and to be known by them, but we are too afraid or lazy or maybe so imprisoned in this modern form of communication that we speak to each other in comments and texts, reducing our words to single letters or syllables--an acronymn for a true conversation. Don't get me wrong. This form of communication is definitely preferable to no communication, but it's somehow become our main form rather than a bridge between the physical and real encounters.
So, we exist in pictures and comments, binary codes of 1s and 0s, glowing, unmoving, images on our neighbors laptop. And, I think, we've lost ourselves in the madness, trading the real for the virtual because it's easier and looks better and is wrapped in the illustrious image of "cool". The thing that was supposed to keep us connected--make us closer and the world smaller--has, in essence, created a chasm between our souls. Sure we know all about this person, or at least what their profile tells us about them. But we do not know the inflections in our friends' voices, the pause on the phone, awkward silences that I believe somehow knit us together. Then, we sometimes get too personal too quickly because the sense of anonymity and "security" that these machines supply. But in the end, we lose. We reamain anonymous, a reflection of our own disguise, a creation in the other person's mind. We reduce ourselves to acquaintences. We do not see a person smile and their eyes crinkle at the corners as we talk or their brow furrow for need of further explanation. And we miss what is best of all. We do not feel their touch as they talk-- hand on your arm or shoulder, a nudge at something funny--or hear their laughter that real, from deep within, out-loud laugh. We simply respond with LOL or maybe ROFL and drive the distance farther between us, creating a greater disconnect than existed before. We end with a see you later or talk to you again soon, and sign off feeling disappointed and alone because we never saw or actually talked in the first place. We are left standing, words in our hands, voice in our throat to ponder the slow and steady distance back to being real.