Cafes, Communication and Community

This shift, from receiving to generating media, has created an enormous epistemological shift between reading and writing, from talking to writing. Reading, by virtue of the constant interruptions we face due to electronic communication, is harder than ever before, whereas typing and publishing have become easier than at any point in human history. Walk into any cafe across America, and you will witness a stirring example of this phenomenon. Whereas once cafes were filled with people talking to one another or reading books or newspapers, now you will find people sitting alone before the glowing screen of their laptop, typing e-mails, working on documents, chatting with their friends a thousand miles away, or surfing the Internet. Sit down with a friend for a face-to-face chat, and you may be scowled at.

—John Freeman, The Tyranny of E-Mail, pp. 98-99

Three implications:

  1. Understand that culture isn’t neutral. Rather, it is always exerting influence upon us (as opposed to being static). We’re products, even willing participants, of our culture more than we believe.
  2. Because culture isn’t neutral, work to create a counter-culture for the common good. In other words, instead of being a passive bystander of culture, lamenting its influence and risidual effects, as a Christian seek to redeem our increasing relational void (due in no small part to technology’s ever pervasive advances). How, you ask? Read on!
  3. Meet with a friend at your local cafe or pub and engage in hearty discussion. People (and here I include both Christians and non-Christians) are increasingly relationally malnourished (in spite of one’s involvement in social media). Unplug, go to your local watering hole and do something novel: talk, listen, interact with actual people (even people very different from you). Face-to-face time can never replace screen time, contrary to popular opinion from social media pundits.
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