“Never the twain shall meet.”

     I heard an article on NPR about the change in courting behaviors in youth. The piece ended with with a quote that gave me pause. The author said, “For me one of the most moving comments I heard over and over and over from 18 to 25 year olds was ‘We’re the most connected generation in history, and yet we are the worst at real love’.” The people of my generation are desperately longing for something real, yet they are constantly inundated with the means to distract themselves from their own longing. It’s as if they are separated from themselves and their own desires. Now, it would seem, the children of my generation are being isolated from themselves and others via electronic communication that lacks authenticity. More than that, it lacks risk.
     In Works of Love, Kierkegaard defined Love as an infinite debt to another willingly taken on (2009, p. 172). An infinite debt like that also requires infinite risk. The “other” will always have the option and the ability to leave me. If I attempt to take that freedom away, either through abuse or manipulation, in order to assuage my own fear of abandonment, then I am clearly acting out of selfishness instead of Love. Please, click on this link and listen to the report. How do you think we can bridge the gap between the seemingly unavoidable inauthenticity that arises when technological interactions usurp genuine face-to-face interactions? Is this any different than writing love letters? Is it the technology/means in and of itself, or is it the way it is being employed?

(c) Nathan D. Croy

4 Replies to ““Never the twain shall meet.””

  1. I agree completely with the idea that electronic communication does lack authenticity. Look at facebook for example. People have thousands of "friends" on facebook. Now I have no doubt that in a lot of cases a person knows every "friend" they have on facebook, but they can't possibly be true friends with that many people. It's simply not possible, and most of the interactions you have on facebook or any other social media are not authentic. Take a persons birthday for example. On your birthday, you will get literally hundreds of people posting on your wall to say happy birthday. A large majority of those people only know it's your birthday because facebook told them it was. And in the same manner, most of them only say happy birthday because its as simple as clicking a link, typing a few words and you're done. I have face book friends who I never chat with on a single occasion aside from twice a year. Once on my birthday and once on theirs. 20 years ago, only your close friends and family knew when your birthday was and even then only the people you are closest too would take the time to dial the phone and have a real conversation with you and with you a happy birthday.
    That being said, I have to wonder if it's really electronic communication that is the problem. After all, people still spend time with their friends in person. They still go on dates. They see each other at school or work and have actual conversations. In the case of people who you are actually close with in the real world and not just online, I think electronic communication is just another way to stay in touch with those closest to you that we didn't have before. Could it simply be that our generation is less willing to work at having a real relationship? This generation seems to be more of an "instant gratification" generation. We want what we want and we want it now. Maybe, people can't find a good relationship becuase they aren't willing to take the time and effort to cultivate a real relationship. Or maybe I have no idea what I am talking about.

  2. Are you saying that electronic communication can bolster already genuine relationships based on face-to-face/intentional interactions, but it can never be the foundation for or replace real communication.
    Also, just for the record, I only remember your birthday because I have it in my calendar…on my phone.

  3. That is what I am saying. I feel like there are simply small nuances that are lost in electronic communication. For instance, I know a guy who used online dating and he told me how he had "met" several girls the site and they had great conversations online and seemed to connect, but when they met in person the chemistry changed or just wasn't there at all. And in the one occasion he met someone on the site that he actually ended up dating for any period of time, he barely talked to her online, aside from setting up the date, but ended up having a great time. He told me he thought it was mostly because they hadn't talked online and so were able to kick things off in real life, as if they had met in person and not on a website.

  4. What bothers me most is the use of the word "connection" in the NPR interview.

    To me, true human connection (for example, the intimate sharing of goals, dreams, distresses, etc) has nothing to do with "online connections".

    Facebook's slogan "Connect with friends" reflects a redefinition of an important human need & concept.

    Facebook (and the internet in general) is a revolutionary tool, but I have rarely witnessed anybody using it actually to connect (as I understand the concept).

    Paul H.

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