My son is currently taking an English course at a local community college. He is working on his first paper, which is a response to several essays that he had to read on the topic of technology and its effect on communication, relationships, etc. I’ve enjoyed talking with him about this, and I’m excited about the direction that he wants to take this paper.
Then, last night, I read a post from Dave Black on a similar topic. (I cannot link directly to Dave’s post, but you can read it on his blog dated Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.)
In his post, he responds to another blogger who refers to the difference between “thin connections” and “thick connections.” This is what Dave writes:
Personally, I have benefited tremendously from the internet, and not merely because of the outlet it provides for my saunterings. I’ve enjoyed the “thin connections” it offers. You go online, visit your favorite blogs, and read an interest post or two. No hardship, and the results are often gratifying and edifying. But my greatest satisfaction comes from those “thick conversations” one simply cannot find on the internet, try though one might… I have examined many thousands of tweets and blog posts but I do not really expect to get to “know” their authors online, congenial as they may appear to be. I have no illusions as to the value of my own blog as a serious conversation partner either. But taking all such limitations into account, the fact remains that social media are conversations of a sort, and I for one am very grateful for every conversation partner God brings my way.
In many ways, this blog and my use of social media (Facebook and Twitter especially) have paralleled this course. These various outlets not only allow for “thin connections” online, but they also provide an avenue for developing or strengthening “thick connections” with people who I know “in real life.”
I know there are many discussions going on now about the benefits and detriments of online relationships and communications. For some people, “thin connections” are all that is available for now. I think they should grow in those relationships as much as possible while also looking for opportunities to build face-to-face “thick connections” that happen when we share our “real life” with one another.