One of the critical questions that children’s and family ministry leaders face is the issue of how technology impacts relationships. Regardless of where I travel to speak with children’s ministry leaders and volunteers, in every venue I am asked to respond to this issue. A subset of questions on this issue include:
• Does the Internet and digital communication dilute real relationships?
• Are the benefits of digital relationality better than the dangers?
The Pew Research Center recently released a report that deals with the heart of this issue entitled, “The future of social relations.” Out of the 895 respondents, none of them were children. This report was based on the input of adults, many whom are web experts and technological pioneers. The respondents were give two statements and asked to agree with one statement.
Around 85% of the respondents agreed with this statement: “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage, and other relationships, I see that the internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.”
Some 14% of the respondents agreed with the opposite statement: “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage, and other relationships, I see that the internet has mostly been a negative force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.”
What about you? Which statement do you agree with?
Here’s an excerpt from the report for further perspective on the respondent’s input:
Some survey respondents noted that with the internet’s many social positives come problems. They said that both scenarios presented in the survey are likely to be accurate, and noted that tools such as email and social networks can and are being used in harmful ways. Among the negatives noted by both groups of respondents: time spent online robs time from important face-to-face relationships; the internet fosters mostly shallow relationships; the act of leveraging the internet to engage in social connection exposes private information; the internet allows people to silo themselves, limiting their exposure to new ideas; and the internet is being used to engender intolerance.
Many of the people who said the internet is a positive force noted that it “costs” people less now to communicate – some noted that it costs less money and others noted that it costs less in time spent, allowing them to cultivate many more relationships, including those with both strong and weak ties. They said “geography” is no longer an obstacle to making and maintaining connections; some noted that internet-based communications removes previously perceived constraints of “space” and not just “place.”