My friend Lynne Baab has a new book out – Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World (IVP). Via an array of stories gleaned from many dozens of interviews, Lynne, who has a PhD in communications and who blogs at Gathering Voices, maps the ways that new technologies and social media are changing the form that many friendships take (even the word ‘friend’ itself has become a verb), threaten to both cheapen as well as promote friendship, and invite us to reassess the nature(s) of friendship itself. She wants to know what makes friendships work, what actions initiate and nurture friendships, why nothing in friendships is permanent, and what does it look like to be a friend in a world shrunken by new communication technologies. Lynne, who is a Facebook devotee, writes with great enthusiasm and warmth, in a very personal style, with a complete absence of academic jargon, with an open Bible, and with an eye on practical concerns. Don’t expect here a treatise on friendship in the manner of a Seneca, or an Augustine, or a critical discussion on the use of technology itself, as that offered by Jacques Ellul – it’s simply not that kind of book. Each chapter concludes with a set of questions for reflection, journaling, discussion or action that could well serve as the basis for group discussion, or a conversation among friends.
You can read the first chapter here, and watch Lynne talking about her book here, here and here.
Just read the first chapter of Lynne’s book – and I can relate to it. Although I am not a Facebook user, I do use email and comment on a few blogs. That’s about the extent of my internet use, apart from work of course. I think ‘virtual friendship’ can happen but there’s no substitute for laughing and talking with a friend face-to-face (preferably in a place that serves good coffee!). My children’s (20s and late teens) generation are so comfortable with technology, I’m sure they have a different view.