Recently I had a good conversation with a friend about relationships and the web, it seems I get into conversations like this rather often, and in this conversation some new ideas were shaped for me. I thought I’d write some of those ideas out. There are a variety of different forms that relationships take but for this post I will limit it to forms of proximity.
There are at least two major groups of relationship we experience those of localization and those of non-localization.
Relationships of Localization
Our most important relationships are formed around localization, whether this is family, church and faith groups and/or working relationships. The people we see most often, and deal with regularly tend to be those who are closest in proximity to us. I am in real relationship with my wife, my housemates, my co-workers and my small group. When I am spending personal time with people it’s these people I am relating too. When I am being challenged by some one, or am struggling with another in their own life, it is most often with people who are in my local community.
There is something deep and connecting about relating to one another in a physical, eye-to-eye manner, that cannot be given up for other forms. We need to be able to have those people we see, hear, smell and touch, close to us; people who love us and dislike us, and people who we love and who we dislike. The human person is shaped by these things.
Relationships of Non-Localization
I am a huge proponent of using the web as a tool for information and communication. When my friend and I chatted I had to be careful to not be defensive?? about the meaningful relationships I’ve built over the web. Meaningful relationships can be built over the web, telephone, letters and instant messaging programs but in a much different way then localized relationships.
Two possible types of relationships come out of this group: maintenance types, and idea sharing types. Maintenance relationships are not bad, despite the possible negative connotation with the word. In fact we all have a lot of maintenance relationships, because in this day and age we move a lot. Maintenance friendships are people we already have a relationship with and we believe they are worth keeping no matter where we live. I have a number of people who fall into this category for me. Often times there is even the hope that we may be together again with these people we are now separated by distanced.
Lastly there is the relationship that is based on idea sharing. This is largely how relationships begin over the web. I find a blog that i really like and begin to read it for ideas, sooner or later I decide to contact the writer and initiate some kind of correspondence, and we participate in emailing, instant messaging, and maybe evening setting up some time to meet. This is largely how the convergent friends?? conversation began. This is the beauty of the internet, we can share ideas across huge distances and massive differences in world-views, motivated by learning about one another and new ideas. Idea sharing and maintenace relationships, so far as I can tell, are not meant to be our primary relationships but supplements of them.
I think there is a lot more to say about all this but we’ll leave this to be a beginning.