This past year, a popular movie, The Social Network, told the story of the origin and growth of Facebook. For those familiar with Facebook no explanation is needed but for the technosaurs among us Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004. Users create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. As of July 2011[update], Facebook had more than 750 million active users worldwide.
Let’s face it, today people communicate in all-too-many and varied ways. Cell phones and now smart phones are more common than ever before. Text messaging, various forms of instant messaging (IM), blogging and microblogging (such as Blogger and Twitter) are ever-more-popular ways of rapidly and extensively communicating. Paperless e-mail has replaced snail mail (i.e., mail delivered by the post office) for many people. YouTube allows us to put our videos online and to broadcast ourselves worldwide. As a result, all too much time is spent in front of a computer, television screen or some form of monitor.
And what exactly is the result of all of this communicating via technology? In my humble opinion, it can be a loss of the personal touch and some basic social and interpersonal skills.
When I was the administrator of a high school, if a student would walk past me in the hallway (as if I didn’t exist) and not say anything to me, I would deliberately stop him or her, say “hello,” look him or her in the eyes and inquire how he or she was. To me, it was an opportunity to teach an important lesson: each and every person is important, and deserves our respect and our attention.
I will be the first to admit that I use technology to help me to communicate. I have a Facebook page, a blog (www.fr-ed-namiotka.com) and a Twitter account. I have been able to connect with so many people worldwide that it is truly amazing to me.
However, I hope that I never lose the personal touch when dealing with people. I hope that I am not too busy or too preoccupied to extend a greeting or to shake a hand. I hope that I never forget to smile at someone or to stop and listen to the person who may need a compassionate ear and some of my time.
I even realize that the entire sacramental system in the Catholic Church, based on the teaching of Jesus and His Church, involves an interpersonal experience of Jesus through various rituals and signs. We encounter Jesus, His grace and His love so many times through the instrument of the priest. “I absolve you . . . .” “This is my Body.” “I baptize you . . . .” “Through this holy anointing . . . .”
Please use technology for good and noble purposes. But also realize that nothing can substitute for the personal touch that only a human being can give.
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . .” (John 1:14)
Fortunately, He didn’t just send us a tweet.
Fr. Ed Namiotka