Nurturing Intimacy in a Facebook Generation

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Our generation is in danger of forgetting the depth and quality of relationships, all in the name of instant communication, “efficiency,” and networking. While the rest of the world texts, pokes, relates in thirty second intervals, let’s not go along with it. Let’s live for something better.

“It is now simpler to multi-task with a virtual friend, rather than go to the bother of going to see a real friend . . . who will demand that I pay attention and not do five other things while talking to him.”
J.M. Reynolds

Perhaps it is the romantic, day-dreamy, lover of all things old-fashioned in me that balks at hearing of a friend’s engagement on Facebook. I do not relish the idea of learning such news from text on a computer screen instead of through the joyous tones of her own dear voice.

What happened to the days when a couple would call, write, or visit their family and friends, celebrating their engagement and upcoming marriage through many evenings of talk, food, and laughter? How old fashioned. How…satisfying. Engagement announcements on Facebook are just one example of the instantaneous, information-overloaded culture mediums such as the internet promote.

Behold the day in which the Lord has placed us. Whether typing on a website or in a word processor, every misspelling or grammatical error is pointed out with red lines and suggested corrections. (Is spelling even taught in schools anymore? What about handwriting?) Instead of unique facial expressions, mannerisms and tones of voice, everyone is restricted to the same smiley, black and white text, and the attempt to communicate in cold silent words when 90% of communication is nonverbal.

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”
-Edward R. Murrow

We are better connected than ever before and yet…perhaps more disconnected than ever before from what really matters. What might those things be?

Effort is required if one desires to nurture authentic intimate relationships in our culture.

It does not come about as naturally as in ages past when life centered around the family unit. We are better connected than ever before and yet…perhaps more disconnected than ever before from what really matters. What might those things be?

We are disconnected from others.

It may be ironic that an article on the limitations and hindrances of the internet will be published online and distributed via RSS feed to thousands of readers. In this day and age one of the most powerful methods of communication is an online blog post. People often do not have or take time for full-length books. How many today would sit down to read Shakespeare or Dickens or Hugo? Is it really too hard to understand or are we just indifferent to anything requiring more effort than skimming a website?If ever the phrase “too much information” were true, it is now. We are daily slapped with way too much information. In the 1600’s a well-read individual had worked through all of the great literary works in history. Even if I sat down and did nothing but read the “best of the best” I could not hope to finish that list before I was 100. I am reminded of the disconcerting fact once heard that one daily issue of today’s New York Times contains more information than a person of the seventeenth century would be exposed to in a lifetime. Too much information.Are we better off because we know so much? We can share articles, ideas, pictures, and videos–but do we purposefully, sacrificially share our lives with one another? Do we have better, deeper friendships because we can text, email, instant message, and poke our friends 24/7? Hardly.

While knowledgeably implementing and appreciating the good things our advanced communication systems bring, we must remain aware of the dangers. Instant communication can breed impatience and encourage relationships to remain in shallow territory. I wonder…what affect might be wrought on friends or a family who endeavored to read David Copperfield together? Or even The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Even something as short as Ephesians would bring great blessing.

We are disconnected from creation.

I’ll be candid. Facebook overwhelms me. The other day I clicked on my “Friends” page to see what updates my relatively small number of “friends” had made and felt my brain freeze. Too much information!

All I wanted to do was take a pen, paper, and book written before the invention of light bulbs and disappear into the woods where there was no sign or sound of anything made by human hands. So I did. Oh, what about my cell phone? Just kidding.

It felt…good. The pleasure of sitting in His creation enjoying some of the finest writing of all time beats surfing blogs hands down. I mean really, this experience is on a completely different level of classification!

Granted, one can take a laptop outside and enjoy nature while doing work online, but most of us who do not live on a farm spend too little time outdoors. Our bodies would be healthier, our minds sharper, and our hearts more at peace if even ten minutes a day were spent enjoying His creation. Just a thought….

We are disconnected from ourselves.

My friends, my profile, my extended-info video-voice-chat Mp3-player list of favorites. It’s all about me. Does anyone need to know what my favorite music or interests are? If they do not know me as a person well enough to remember or learn what I enjoy, is this the solution? Does anyone read those things anyway (I don’t)?

Let’s be vigilant to not waste time updating things about ourselves and focus on improving and understanding ourselves. Digging beyond favorite movies, what have you learned and believe about bioethics, or the recent events overseas? What you studied in devotions yesterday? What do you know and believe as Truth? What are your non-negotiable convictions? How can you be actively pursuing growth intellectually, spiritually, physically? To learn this of oneself and others is to find significance.

We are disconnected from peace.

Peace and quiet are not optional luxuries. They are not simply indicators of inefficiency and repose. They are vital to our being complete as human beings. When is the last time I did not have five things needing to be done–or were trying to do five things at once? When did I just sit, without music or talking or reading and just be for a few minutes? When did I seek His peace for the day, His guidance for the next moment?

Seeking Intimacy

Despite my tongue-in-cheek criticism of the website, I’ll likely keep my profile on Facebook. And yes, I use an RSS reader to keep track of important websites. Of course, you obviously know that I am a blogger. None of these things are wrong in moderation. It’s just that when I experienced an assault of meaningless trivia, I wondered if others are fighting the same battle.

Are you? If so…what can we do about it? What will you do about it?

I for one shall drink tea and read Plato during a cold November afternoon. I will pray and plead with the Lord to guide me in the way I should go. I will put down the cell phone and pick up pen and paper. I will invest in my relationships in ways that will have lasting value.

Let’s not forget to nurture intimacy. Let’s fight for authenticity and quality. Let’s redeem the time for the days are evil.

Photography: JenniMarie Photography


  1. Wow! I am so happy to be living in a day an age where technology allows us to keep in touch with long lost friends that we would have never found otherwise. What a blessing that God ordained us for such a time as this… to use all of this technology for his glory.

  2. Thanks for that challenging post, Natalie.
    I enjoy facebook for keeping up with friends, yet you’re very right…it’s too easy to fall into the trap of letting virtual communication predominate how one gets to know a friend better. It’d be amazing if the few of us who are passionate about deeper, significant friendships (not on-the-surface, instant gratification, give me a 1 minute summary of who you are/what you’re doing/and how you’re doing type of relationships) would start a revolution.

  3. Thank you so much for this post!!! I spend a lot more time with the internet than I do with family, Friends, and God.

  4. Wow!
    How did you know that’s exactly what I have been mulling over lately? I agree 100%!

    “Never before in the history of mankind have we had so many gadgets and methods of communicating with one another…and never in the history of mankind have we been so disconnected and alien to one another.”

    I don’t remember where I saw that or who said it, but it sure struck me as truth!

    Thanks for sharing this, Natalie!

  5. I had to add this comment when I saw it in March 2007 of Reader’s Digest: “A recent survey reported that 27% of Americans take their cell phones to the bathroom, an indication that reading is definitely becoming a lost art.”

    Wow! Take that for a reality check. But they should see my library!

  6. Natalie,
    I couldn’t agree more!!
    The friends I am closest to are the ones that I actually communicate with- in person, through long handwritten letters, and telephone calls. The internet doesn’t even compare (in most cases). Though there is one or two special friends that I have met through the internet and therefore I’m incredibly thankful for the internet because without it, I might have never met these “heart friends”.
    I think moderation is the key for most things, including online time. We really do need to make sure it’s NOT the most important thing in our life. I, for one, would rather spend time outside or curled up with a good book or talking to my family and friends.
    Thank you for this insightful article! While I don’t have a Facebook account, I do have a live journal account…. which is somewhat similiar.
    God Bless,

  7. So true, and very well put. Balance is key, as well as having priorities in order. I know that I have a problem with using the internet to take up “bored time” that could be much better used productively.
    Thank you for this.

  8. While Facebook and other social networking sites are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends separated by time and distance, something is “off” if one is investing as much time or more time in those relationships via the web rather than in face-to-face, local relationships.

    Relationships with those we are separated from ARE important but nurturing relationships with people that you encounter personally, everday are equally important.

    I love the last part of Proverbs 27:10, “better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”

  9. Wow, this is definitely a topic that catches the interest of a graduate student of communication, and someone who is simply fascinated with human interaction and new media in general. 🙂

    As Joelle mentioned, many of the new Internet media can be a blessing. I love the fact that a medium such as Facebook can help me to connect and re-connect with friends and family who are geographically distant. As a college junior, I started a Facebook group for homeschooled graduates at my university, and as a result, ended up meeting several wonderful people in person.

    But as you said, there is also the danger that we will allow new media to sap our time and energy, and to contribute to our own innate selfishness and self-obsession.

    Any media, whether old or new, has the potential for good or evil. The choice is ours as to how we use (or abuse) it, and we must ultimately accept responsibility for that choice.

  10. Hi Natalie! I’m worse than what you described since I usually only read and don’t contribute or communicate much on the internet… And I used the internet a lot! I realized that it took way too much of my time and since July I don’t have access to the internet from my place. And what a blessing that has been/is!!! I use internet at work to pay bills, write emails, read blogs, and usually spend part of my lunch for that. Sometimes I come early or stay a little later, but not often. I have stopped reading most blogs(YLCF is one I still check daily though=)), and hardly ever watch YouTube or other movie clips, except at my parents’ once a month or so. My time is now spent with friends or family, baking, reading books, talking on the phone, cooking, knitting, listening to the radio and a lot more. Sometimes I miss it, but for the most part I feel so free!=) I don’t know if I’ll ever have internet at home again, I’ll definitely pray about it for a long time before deciding.

    God’s peace,

    Sofia from Sweden

  11. Excellent thoughts, Natalie! Recently I found myself struggling with a sense of oppression and worldliness–this despite the fact that I live in a largely self-contained bubble with my work and my wonderful family. I realized that I was letting the world in through the internet. All the headlines, all the newsletters, all the pressures I didn’t need to have. I’ve been trying to cut back… to simplify. It IS making a difference. YLCF is one of the few places I still visit on a regular basis. Thanks for being a blessing.

  12. Dear Natalie,
    I delayed reading this post because I was ignorant to how interesting it would be! Rarely does anyone speak my mind quite so clearly. I agree 100% with everything you said. I don’t have facebook or myspace or anything for that particular reason. I began to blog in September and adore it but also began a “snail mail camapain” and find much enjoyment in my actual paper letters in the box…more so than the common square which pops up in my inbox. Drink that tea! Read that Plato!
    Everly Pleasant

  13. I do agree that news and friendly updates appear much more shallow at the level that most people communicate on these social networks and “new media”. I definitely prefer receiving even a friendly, personal email versus a posting on MySpace or Facebook!
    However, I believe that social networks do give some benefits, especially for those of us whose families (and/ or friends) are across the country. Take an example of YouTube (which is a similar up-and-coming social network like Facebook). Moments after I was proposed to (by the guy who’s now my husband), he took a short amateur video clip of me still sniffling with a huge grin. We were able to share this with our family and friends across the country since many of them were not local and it was impossible to share the news with them in person. To date, it has been watched 647 times.
    I believe, like you said, communication over “new media” must be in moderation, and definitely should not replace personal contact and caring between family and friends.

  14. Very good reminder…it’s all so true. It can be such a danger to get too invovled and addicted to something. Ultimately, moderation pleases our Saviour and it also keeps us focused on doing what it right and good!

  15. Natalie, I am so glad you posted this. It really made me think and you pointed out some important stuff to think about.

    I like Facebook, I’ll be honest. I’ve found it to be a great way to stay in touch with friends that I don’t live near. But after reading this post, I think I have a different perspective on it.

    I really appreciated this post.

  16. Amen Natalie!

    I could not agree more. While I am blessed by the encouragement found on the internet (such as YLCF) it definitely could never replace real life relations.
    I always appreciate the reminder – similar to Josh Harris’ “Cheating my Blog”
    Thanks for writing!

  17. Excellent post! And also very timely for me. It is the 3rd such article that I’ve read which used Facebook as the primary example of electronic excess. The other such article that I found very enlightening was this: That article revealed the tendency towards self-obsession that Facebook (and other such sites) creates. The Lord has been showing me lately that the root of self-obsession is pride. What an insidious sin that we must endeavor to guard ourselves against.

    Anyway, thanks for this post!

  18. This is so absolutely true!! I am glad that someone has finally said it apart from my father! He has always had a ‘feeling’ for sites such as facebook,bebo…..We are loosing the art of letter writing, spending time face-to-face, ect.& even putting in some cases friends before family and daily quiet time.

    I have especially noticed it among homeschooling girls or girls/women who are staying at home till they get married. It seems that they have more time for these sorts of things!(just generally speaking!)

    I always like to spend double the amount of time I spend on the internet/phone…with the Lord as why are we one earth? Who are we living for? Who should we be longing to spend time with daily?

    Just my thoughts!

  19. This I couldn’t agree with more…. in our efforts to be connected we really are the most shallow people ever. That is so sad and I miss intensely the depth of relationships that there use to be.

    Time to change all that. 🙂

  20. Ouch! That really “hit home” with me. I’ll confess: I’m guilty. I think I need to find a sulution. Thanks!

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