I've blogged about it before, and I am quite aware of the irony of doing such. Yet, it is nice to see confirmation of what I feel deep down in my gut being written about by someone who is reaching a much broader audience.
From Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning:
In general there has been a substitution of mediated relationships--through mobile phones, social networking sites, virtual reality, chat rooms, Second Life and the like--instead of face-to-face encounters. But it is only in face-to-face encounters that we engage in empathetic relationship, much of which has to do with personal presence, body language, facial gestures, touching and so on. Second Life is not real life. Virtual communities are not real communities. You can substitute electronic objects like e-books for their physical counterparts, but you cannot substitute e-people for living, breathing, family and friends. (Kindle location 3158)Much is being said in the church about getting on board with the electronic revolution and being engaged with reaching people through social networking. Bless those who work in this endeavor. It is important for the church to have a presence in such matters. We need to add our voice to this massive milieu that is out there. Who knows, we might actually engage a few souls and the Spirit might work through such things electronically to bring people to faith.
Yet, I am still struck by statistics I heard just a few years ago: 90% of people join a congregation, not because of a web site, or an add in the paper, or an add in the telephone book, but because they were invited by a family member or friend to attend. Real. Personal. Invitational. Not virtual.
I personally still prefer such face to face meetings instead of texts, emails, phone calls, and notifications on Facebook--even though I participate in all these different things. In fact, such personal encounters actually give me much more a sense of satisfaction and "warm fuzzies" than chatting with a friend over some sort of messenger system.
Such systems do allow us to check in more regularly with friends and family we haven't seen for some time. It's been a blessing to connect to many high school friends who I would have absolutely no contact with had it not been for Facebook; yet, such connections are very poor indeed compared to face to face meetings.
In my estimation, the church should focus much more attention on the latter. Rabbi Sacks, thanks for the backup from another faith tradition.