Monday, November 10, 2008

Fractured Communication

I post a little less on the weblog than I used to because of some of the other new ways I have found to communicate my thoughts and activities.  I used to often post really short updates about where I was or where I was going.  Twitter is now my venue for that random sort of stuff.  If you don’t follow twitter, you can still see those by scrolling down a bit on the blog and looking at my twitter updates.  (And if you still don’t “get” twitter, The U’s Matt Redman has a great article about it here: On Social Networking, by Matt Redman) I also used to post a lot more links to articles and other websites.  Those are now a lot easier to post on my facebook account and actually tend to inspire more comments and feedback there.  (For more information on facebook, you can read this article from Wikipedia.)

I want to admit that this is all still a grand experiment for me.  There is part of me that still thinks this might all be a bad idea.  In response to a comment on an earlier post about twitter on this blog, I referenced Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart, where, in his section on silence, he quotes Chuang Tzu, "The purpose of a fish trap is to catch a fish and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of rabbit trap is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of the word is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to." [From Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tsu (New York: New Directions, 1965), p. 154]

Our modern communications and relationships have become more and more fractured.  We used to only communicate face to face, then by letters, then by telegram, then by phone, then by email and cell phone and text message and instant message.  Throughout the whole evolution the level of interactivity has been constantly changing.  Face to face is quite interactive, letters and telegram are but without the instant gratification (though, in case you missed it, Western Union has ceased telegraph service.)  Email is interactive but text messaging has overtaken it because it tends to be more instantaneous.  Then came blogs and social networking sites like facebook and twitter which add a whole other twist of optional interactivity, meaning you can use them passively as one way communication or actively as two way communication.

The rate at which we add means of communication seems to be accelerating but there is always the risk that we are communicating less.  But in this evolving and accelerating communication universe is that what is happening?  Is all this communication causing us to communicate less?  And how does this all relate to our call to Christian community?  In our increasingly fractured society where the idea of community and family has so been so drastically changed as we have moved from small towns and inner cities to suburbs and gated communities and from living in the same town as a our parents and siblings to living in different states and countries are all these new means of communication part of the solution or part of the problem?  We will see.



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