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Ep. 321 Why Are Superficial Friends More Enjoyable Than Long-Term Ones?

Why Are Superficial Friends More Enjoyable Than Long-Term Ones

Shows Main Idea – There are built-in dangers when we prefer risk-free superficial relationships over the risks of long-term friends fraught with disappointment. For example, I will hear a person talk about how they met a stranger, and within minutes they had an in-depth personal conversation with them. They glow about how easy and natural it was to talk to their new friend. Then they say, “And she was a perfect stranger!” This interaction is called the “stranger on the train” phenomenon. It’s similar to the lack of complexity in dating versus the rigors of marriage.

Show Notes

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High Reward, Low Risk

The boy and girl meet and hit it off; they cannot stop talking to each other. They’re exhausted from their day jobs but have uninterrupted energy to chat each other up throughout the night. There are no limits to how much they talk, share, and repeat. Of course, there is no history, grudges, unforgiveness, or bitterness between them. It’s the conference speaker or blogger who is so transparent about his life, knowing he does not live with his audience.

Marriage is when you start living with the stranger on the train in a 24/7, lifetime relationship, where sin abounds. You know your spouse like the back of your hand. You know their tendencies and weaknesses and their triggers. You have a historical record of all the times they hurt you. You are keenly aware when (or not) to be vulnerable. You factor in all the “communication risks” with your former stranger on the train.

This concept of sharing with freedom and without fear is called the disinhibition effect. There is little inhibition about being vulnerable with a stranger because he can’t hurt you, so you believe. Of course, the possibility of being vulnerable and a lack of perceived risk is part of the bait that cyberspace uses to lure you into its net.

Piles of Cyber-Dust

In real-world relationships it’s more complex to “unlike” somebody. When bad things happen and hurts accumulate, you have to deal with them biblically (or not). How many times have you read on Facebook where a person said something unkind and never confessed it as sin or asked for forgiveness? It would be exceptional for a Christian to clean up their cyber dust-ups on social media.

The norm is a “hit and run” because they don’t have to interact with those annoying people in real life and space. The disinhibition effect releases you to say whatever is on your mind—things you would never say face-to-face. Real-world relationships take work and are tedious, and it’s a guarantee that you will offend someone. No wonder cyberspace is so popular. Hurting souls are everywhere, especially in a local church.

Real-life is strewn with broken people, while Facebook is full of folks who prefer false intimacy, as they put their best foot forward while keeping everyone at “cyber-arms-length.” Social media is like a drug to the hurting desperate soul. I use the drug analogy because of how drugs affect the addict who is desperate for an escape.

Direct Message with Rick Thomas

A Safe Space Prison

After you meet the stranger on the train, and both of you throw inhibition to the wind, you may convince yourself that you’re building a whole relationship with a whole person. You’re not. At best, what you have is true and false intimacy. You cannot replicate and enjoy God’s solution to companionship in cyberspace (Genesis 2:18).

If you cut yourself off from all potential hurt, it’s not possible to know God the way He wants you to know Him. You will carve out a world where you’re relying on yourself, building high walls and safe spaces (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). The adverse effect of not engaging real people in the real fallen world is that your safe space will incarcerate you. I’m talking about the cyber effect on your sanctification.

The most debilitating adverse impact of technology and social media is what it does to our Christian maturity—our progressive sanctification, especially in how we relate, engage, and participate while cooperating with God in the transformation of the body of Christ. If we don’t change each other in real-time and space, the damage to the body of Christ will be immediate and generational.

Call to Action

  1. What is your theology of technology? How would you explain your reasons for using technology and how those thoughts build up the body of Christ and spread the fame of God?
  2. Do the core tenants of your technology engagement have a love God and love others emphasis, or is it more about making you feel good, safe, or connected?
  3. Perhaps a better way to reflect on these things is by filtering your cyberspace experience through Paul’s primary aim for everything we do, as laid out in 1 Corinthians 10:31.
  4. What is one thing you should change about your tech habits? What is your plan to change? Will you share these things with a friend and ask them to help you stay the course?
  5. If you’re interested in building long-term, messy relationships, I appeal to you to make the time to watch this webinar where I share seventeen tips for getting down and dirty with someone.

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