I first heard the term “neighboring” in the early days of being a pastor. Folks in the community referred to spending time with others as neighboring. They would frequently lament that people in the community didn’t spend the same amount of time as they used to neighboring. It was a foreign word but a familiar concept.
I have been wondering a lot about how social media impacts how we relate to other people. So much in our lives is mediated through some sort of technology that is supposed to make our lives easier. I would contend that the technology meant to free us can also work to enslave us if we aren’t careful about it.
I can’t help but wonder if all of these outlets, whether it is Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, email, or texting aren’t actually giving us a false sense of community in some way. I certainly like the fact that I can talk with friends all around the world in an instant. However, I spend a lot of time half-heatedly paying attention to what others are up to on their news feeds. I feel like I am keeping up with family, friends, and acquaintances by checking their status updates instead of intentionally getting together with people face to face. For me this begs the question — Are we substituting virtual interaction for human face to face interaction and calling it community, when in fact we aren’t really connecting with each other in any significant way?
John gives us something to consider in 2 John 1:12
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
John was using the technology of the day (letter writing) to communicate with those at a distance. However, that wasn’t good enough for him. His joy wasn’t complete until he was able to see these folks face to face. I think John is reminding us that letters are good but face to face interaction is better. I don’t think that it is a huge leap to suggest that we can say texting/email/facebook are good, but face to face interaction is better.
I am not entirely sure how to strike the best balance all of the time, but I do think it is important that we get off our phones, computers, or whatever serves to keep you “connected” and as the folks in my former congregations described it, do some legitimate “neighboring”.
Questions for reflection?
- How much time do you spend per day on social media?
- Do you think you neighbor well?
- Does social media give you the sense that you have truly connected with people?
- Are you intentionally seeking face to face opportunities to connect with the people on your life?
- Do you feel comfortable with the balance you have struck between your face to face interactions and your online interactions?