I recently went to the birthday party of a good friend. I only knew one person at the party – the person who’d invited me.

By the end of the evening I’d chatted to at least 5 or 6 new people in depth – and made two new Facebook friends. I’d also managed to grow my own self-confidence into the bargain.

Somehow, being around people, physically interacting with them, made a difference to me. I have new friendships in the digital realm now, but there was a connection made in physically interacting that couldn’t have been made otherwise.

It works in reverse too.

For example, the day before the party above, I met and had dinner with someone in London. A friend who I had chatted to on both Twitter, Facebook and Skype. Someone who I had built up a good friendship with and talked to about some important issues only in the digital realm.

A person I considered a good friend, but who I’d never met in the flesh before that day.

There is no question our friendship was real before we met. The friendship we’d built up before we met physically was true, authentic and real.

But somehow meeting him, having coffee and dinner with him and discussing face-to-face a lot of the issues we’d discussed online, added a dimension to our friendship.

Something was added to our relationship we had not possessed before.

Physical interaction does this to relationships. It brings a dimension we cannot replicate or experience elsewhere.

This is not to say that we cannot have true, authentic relationships without physical interaction. Not at all. I have many close friendships where we have never met physically, and they mean a lot to me, they are as deep as any friendship I have offline.

But there is something about physical interaction we cannot replicate electronically. Not even on Skype, where we get to see someone in their physical environment, face to face. That is the closest the digital realm has come to replicating physical interaction.

But it’s still not the same.

Internet dating sites now account for about 30% of marriages or civil partnerships – a pretty high rate, given only 20 years ago it was 0%.

But none of those relationships would be able to be fully consumated unless the two people involved had met physically. It’s simply not possible. People aren’t going to date, yet alone marry, someone they haven’t even met in person. Having kids would be pretty difficult (though, technically, scientifically possible).

In the Genesis story, Adam is told it’s not good for man to be alone. Right from the beginning then, we are told that as human beings it’s not good for us to not have interaction with others – and whilst that is possible electronically, the point being made here is abundantly clear.

Physical interaction with others in fundamental to us fully embracing, understanding and gaining the absolute most of the human experience.

That’s not to say solitude at times is bad. Jesus Himself often withdraws to places quietly to pray on His own, and there are tremendous benefits to that.

But from the beginning we see that without regular physical interaction with others, we can’t be fully human.

It’s just not healthy.

In many ways, without physical interaction, we’re dead.

Yes, we must embrace the digital realm and be fully immersed in it. The interactions that go on there are real. We can build true, authentic friendships and relationships there without ever meeting physically. Sometimes, that’s what happens.

But one thing my digital sabbath showed me is…

…we can live without it.

Ultimately life can go on without the digital realm.

In contrast, it simply can’t go on without physical interaction.

If we are to be fully human in the way we were designed to be, we must always balance digital relationships with regular physical interaction and engagement with others.

There’s nothing that can quite replicate it.

 

Do you have friendships that exist only in the digital realm?

Do you believe that those kind of friendships are real (as I do) – or not? Why/why not?

How can we build a healthy balance of relationships within the digital and physical realms?

 

 

Related posts:

Social Media: Taking a break

Social Media: Which world do you live in?

Digitally exposed?

Twitter-God? Reflections on social media & church

The digital balance

 

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James Prescott

Hi, I’m James. I live near London. I’m a fan of good food, comic-book movies, & books. I love to write, and I coach other writers & creative people. Thank you for being part of my community. read more...