Loneliness and the Screen

Graffiti of dancing kids with TV screens for heads

Kenny Goubran, a freshman at New York University, made this provocative statement as he read “The Future of Loneliness,” an essay in The Guardian:

“Loneliness, in a way, is not only determined by lack of company but rather, a lack of understanding.”

As with anything, the internet provides both gains and losses. One can feel more connected to others or can become more and more isolated. It isn’t all-good or all-bad. But our reactions to it can help us move to a deeper understanding.

The internet can keep us safe from harms, but it also keeps us safe from the good. Clearly, the screen can never be a substitute for the real rewards and risks of face-to-face interaction. For example, being in our church at Graffiti keeps me from just hanging out with friends like myself.

Once we had a person from Princeton do an internship with us and I asked him what he had learned while he was here. Like many churches, our church has a range of different kinds of people. He said, “I learned that there are many flowers in the kingdom of God. Some just smell better than others.”

That’s is both the challenge and the advantage of face-to-face interaction with people that are not like us. It is the facial cues, the eye to eye connections, the full body language, the halitosis, the hand on the shoulder, the immediate off-the-cuff insight that all come from really being in the same room with others.

That experience of real difference may even help us, as Kenny indicates, to understand.

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