Years ago, I came across one sociologist's term for the way "communication information technologies" (CIT's) were transforming the very nature of communication and connection. The essay was written in 2000--when email was still relatively new. He used the term, "promiscuous communication." The meaning of 'promiscuous' he had in view was not sexual. Rather it was his way of highlighting how our communications have become "unselective, indiscriminate, and casual." That term has stayed with me over the years and become increasingly relevant. That does not imply a value judgement on my part. It is a helpful description. It simple is a way of naming the reality that (as I have said in these posts before) we communicate more information with more people more often than any previous generation could have possibly imagined.
In terms of how we communicate with one another on a daily basis, we all implicitly grasp the benefits of our newfound capacities for communication. Today, for example, I will be exchanging texts messages, emails and pictures with our GUC travelers who are winging their way to Guatemala. I am not out to demean or disparage these capacities. I am interested in having us achieve a more critical appraisal of their impact on what kinds of connections these CIT's stimulate and what kinds of connections they depreciate. Such critical appraisal will keep us awake to the importance of cultivating of the kinds of connections with one another that are less convenient and more essential to our thriving.
In my own life, I sometimes feel as if my relational world is subject to a kind of centrifugal force--as it expands everyone becomes more distant. I am communicating with more and more people and interacting face-to-face (even voice-to-voice) with fewer and fewer. In other words, the ease with which I can communicate indirectly makes the need for more direct encounters less necessary.
I remain convinced that there is no substitute for the quality of encounter and engagement that more direct forms of communication require and the "thickness" of communication they make possible. Less promiscuous, perhaps--but more promising. It puts the communion back into communication.