It was over 30 years ago, but I remember it well. I connected my IBM computer (with no hard drive) to the telephone, heard the dial tone and buzz, and suddenly I was online. Connected to others. Connected to the world.
I’m guessing you had a similar rush of excitement. The fact that you’re reading this blog—or any blog—tells me you value the connectivity the Internet provides. We see the benefit computers bring to our lives.
We’re also pleased when we hear our local schools are making computers a key part of education. It’s big business to create software that helps us learn. Why should a school settle for a limited physical library when a computer connected to the Internet opens up all sorts of possibilities for learning?
Computers are not making education or our lives in general as wonderful and rosy as we first imagined. A massive study of 11,000 kids shows that children who spent more than two hours a day looking at a screen got lower scores on thinking and language tests. Toddlers who could build using virtual blocks were unable to convert that skill into building with real blocks. [Source]
What’s missing? Human interaction. The human touch.
Online kids are missing the educational value of interacting with other kids while they learn. They’re missing the benefit of learning together and interacting with a teacher face-to-face. It seems to me that learning is more than a cerebral activity; it involves the whole person. I’ve been surprised at the number of young adults I know who prefer a physical book to a Kindle. Feeling the book, turning its pages, and even smelling the ink and paper enhances the reading experience.
In an insightful New York Times article written by Nellie Bowles, she points to the irony that many of those who made a truckload of money developing and selling educational software to schools are opting to put their own children in schools that offer a practically screen-free education.
What’s especially sad to me is that many tech companies see the value of the human element so they are creating virtual humans and pets—avatars—to interact with us. Fake humans! Go ahead and laugh, but how many of us feel a personal connection to the Siri voice? (I know I’m not the only one.)
This is why the virtual church will never replace getting up, getting dressed, and getting out the door to meet others at church. Face-to-face human connection is critical. We talk to God in prayer even though we can’t see Him. But how do we “see” God? Is it not in the faces and lives of other Christians?
- God encourages us through other believers.
- God comforts us through the presence of others.
- God convicts us through the words and lives of others.
I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts, but we—the body of Christ—are His hands and feet. We experience God’s presence when we worship with other believers.
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20).
I thoroughly enjoy connecting with you through this blog. I value your comments here, on Facebook, or through email. And I trust these few moments we spend together digitally encourage and benefit you as well. But connecting through this blog is a poor substitute for a face-to-face conversation. So …
- If you’re not involved in a church family, get involved.
- If you’re not involved in a group Bible study—8 to 15 people—get in one. Or start one. This is not a place for a Bible lecture, but a place for discussion and interaction as you study God’s Word together.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).
Now get off this blog and off the Internet and go talk to somebody. Hug somebody. Be the presence of God in someone’s life.
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