It’s not news that with the creation of the Internet came a fundamental shift in the way we communicate with one another. The phrase “see you later” no longer refers to the next time one sees someone in person, but rather the next time one may see another in cyberspace via Facebook, Twitter, email, or Skype. Yes, the Internet has given us the unique gift of connectedness, no matter the time or place.
For singles, who often have family and friends scattered all over the country and world, the ability to keep in touch provides much-needed support. I know for myself, the multiple Facebook wall posts I received on a recent birthday and spontaneous emails from friends with updates on their lives are treasured reminders of the love surrounding me, though it’s not always physically around me. Additionally, technology has provided individuals, particularly singles, with the opportunity to meet and connect with others who they may not have otherwise connected with, as we know from many success stories here at CatholicMatch. There is no doubt: Technological communication is truly a gift for this generation.
But this technological connectedness does not come without drawbacks. More and more studies are revealing the potential risks frequent technology users are taking. The New York Times’ Matt Richtel writes:
The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.
We call this downtime leisure, an art many of us have forgotten exists or seldom make time for. But leisure can provide for much happier and balanced individuals, and isn’t that a good for anyone – especially those seeking to find a spouse?
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the [University of California, San Francisco], where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
Funny, Pope Benedict had the same thoughts in the 43rd message for World Communications Day, celebrated in 2009.
If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.
Certainly technology can help individuals create and sustain valuable friendships, Benedict notes, but we should never “trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship” by sustaining online friendships at the cost of human friendships.
Which raises the question: Do you stay home from social gatherings or parties to keep up with friends on Facebook or Twitter? Or more subtly, are you guilty of taking every spare moment – in the grocery store line, on the train or bus, and at stoplights – to check your phone for text messages and emails?
If so, you may be missing fleeting moments your brain needs to process life’s events. And who knows, you may even being missing opportunities to meet the person standing next to you who could turn out to be a new friend or companion.