The Thirst for Community {A Less Digital Life…Day 17}

 inrlmeetup

In little droplets we give and get. 140 characters or less do their best to articulate the everyday mercy, the wide-eyed wonder, the treasure in the earthen vessel @thismoment. Maybe an instagr.am is like a thousand words; or maybe it’s more like a cave drawing, a chalky sketch that leaves us wanting for details. We can’t write a blog post more than 500 words if we actually want someone to read it. We reel in one-liner comments on Facebook. We txt instead of call, shorten r words 2 get a quick point across, think there must be an emergency when the phone actually rings. Always little droplets.

“We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation,” psychologist Sherry Turkle said in a recent New York Times article, “But they don’t…. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters.”

Too long we go thirsty with the dribble from the virtual faucet.

A while back, I penciled an entry in my journal at the end of a night. “To go to sleep satisfied,” I wrote, “it is too rare a thing. But I have the gift of it tonight….” I had spent the morning cleaning to make the house ready for an old friend to visit. Around noon, we toasted some sandwiches, filled our cups with cold water and then I listened as she poured out the whole story of what she’d been through the last few years, a plot-line I could have never deciphered from the little blurbs she’d shared in virtual world. That evening, after I taught a lesson for eager English language-learners, I came right home and tapped out long paragraphs to point her to the Word at the beginning, the Word that spoke over the surface of the waters.

In the text, that same Word, now made flesh, spoke over the waters again when he asked an outcast of a woman for a drink from the well. Many of us have our reasons to guard ourselves from community, to give and get in little sips. Turkle continued, “[We] use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right.”

But notice what happens here in front of the well. In face-to-face conversation with Jesus, this woman has no way to make herself presentable. She is found out.

I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her run home and bolt the door shut, further cutting herself off from the world. Instead, the woman runs into town, toward community and brings the crowd back to the Living Water. When Holley Gerth mentioned the concept of “fitting in vs. belonging” in an inRL video, I grabbed the pen fast, scribbled down the words and wrote down the author’s name. Brené Brown’s written words speak so well to this story: “We can only belong when we offer our most authentic selves and when we’re embraced for who we are.”

The flat screen world can only go so far. We need to know each other in 3-D.

One Saturday morning, I ventured out in real life, breathed in the cold damp, sloshed through drizzles without an umbrella. At the door of the bistro, I met the bold smell of coffee brewing. I walked around the hostess counter toward the back of the place. When I came near, I saw the centerpiece of the room, a table full of women who once had just been avatars to me. Now, they weren’t just “apparitions flickering on the screen,” but flesh and bone and audible word.

There in the middle of it all was one chair open, saved just for me. Across the table, one friend clinked a flask on another’s glass, pouring water, quenching thirst for community.

Here’s a little Internet break for you. Right now, before you do anything else online….
Pour a tall glass of water and drink it down.

 

 

{I’m linking up with Nester for her annual 31 Days blog get together. Don’t want to miss this series? Be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box on the homepage sidebar. Find all posts in the series here.}

edited from the archives

One thought on “The Thirst for Community {A Less Digital Life…Day 17}

  1. “use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right.”

    So true, it hurts.

    Just spent an afternoon with long time friends and came back so full, so much better than through screens. They aren’t on social media so you have to do real life with them.

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