I once had the pleasure of hearing Dallas Willard speak in person. I had been invited to participate in the development of a web-based spiritual formation tool the developers were calling Monvee. My wife kiddingly renamed Monvee to Non-vee because it never really took flight, but that’s okay. Through my Nonvee experience I was able to hear Dallas Willard be interviewed on a range of topics. Well worth it.
One of the things Dallas talked about was true community. He admitted he probably was a bit “old-fashioned” but he was concerned about what technology was doing to real community between human beings. He said, “The word community comes from the Latin word communitas which means ‘shared by all or the many.’ Thus when we have a conversation where there is a give and take, where intonation can be heard, and where one can see the non-verbal expressions on another person’s face – we are much closer to experiencing the true ‘shared by all’ characteristics of community. But when we merely connect in short bursts of text, or emails or photos I do wonder how much true community we’re experiencing. For instance, I’ve found myself as a professor standing among a group of students having a fantastic conversation together – sharing in conversational community – and then watched as one student would receive a text they felt the need to respond to. That student was still physically present with us, but via that text they suddenly removed themselves from sharing in the actual community standing before them in order to ‘commune’ via technology. I grant that technology has given us many good new tools, but I am concerned about the unforeseen consequences of defining our online social networks as community.”
I admit I’m a bit old fashioned myself. In fact some of my friends have accused me of being a Luddite, but I think Dallas has some great insights we need to consider. How are we investing ourselves in non-community that we’ve redefined as community?