Authentic Connection in a Digital Age

By: Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd

Authentic connection is described as the core of psychological well-being and is the essential quality of growth fostering and healing relationships. ~ Janet L. Surrey

God has created us for authentic connection and meaningful attachments—the kind that has the power to secure, grow, free, and transform us. Research shows that human connection is one of the keys to happiness. So the question is: How can all the connecting done through the digital world provide us with the lasting connections we need to be fulfilled and secure? MIT Professor Sherry Turkle has written extensively on the impact of technology on our relationships, and she believes that we’re designing tech that will give us the illusion of friendship without the demands of companionship.

Our Digital Technology Offers Us Three Illusions:
  1. We'll have attention everywhere.
  2. We'll always be heard.
  3. We'll never have to be alone.
This digital age is helping us connect with extended relationships, but it is also causing us to disconnect from our most important intimate relationships—the ones that live under the same roof. For sustaining intimate relationships, we need to have conversations, not just connections. We are not learning the give-and-take of real conversation. Instead, we craft, edit, and tweak our texts, emails, and posts. This means the less face-to-face communication you have with people,  the worse your real social skills will become. More specifically, are teens and young adults developing healthy relationship skills and the emotional intelligence needed to sustain healthy marriages?

One teenager insightfully described it like this: Lots of my friends are more comfortable texting than they are talking and having real relationships. They have trouble with face-to-face intimacy because they’re so used to living their lives online and in text messages. Texting feels safer than telling someone face-to-face what you feel.

Yes, texting does feel safer because you don’t have to say what you really feel, but it isn’t a real conversation. Real conversations are hard work; they are messy, challenging, unpredictable, and time-consuming, but they are worth it.

Reasons we like our e-communications.
  • They are simple and easy to use.
  • They exploit our senses by drawing us toward their appealing and entrancing visual displays and crystal clear sounds.
  • They make us feel as though we are anonymous since nobody can see us.
  • They exploit the fact that any communication without physical cues allows us to feel unencumbered and unconcerned about the impact we are having on the human being receiving our message.
  • They are always available through many devices. 
This leads us to another important aspect of the digital invasion—Face-book affairs. A study shows as many as one in five divorces now involve Facebook affairs. Thousands of marriages are in trouble this very moment because someone fueled an improper relationship on the Internet. As we have listened to many stories about Facebook affairs, most people say the same thing: I don’t know how this happened. I thought we were okay. How did I get into this mess? Be aware that it could happen to you, so place boundaries in order that it does not.

Steps to Preventing Facebook Affairs:
  • Set your relationship status to married—never try to mislead those you connect with on Facebook. 
  • Don’t friend ex-boyfriends or girlfriends.
  • Be honest with your spouse about everything you do on the Internet.
  • Share your username and password with your spouse. 
  • Post pictures of your spouse and family on your profile page.
True intimacy requires you to share your feelings, thoughts, and heart. Real-life encounters are worth the effort and will bring glory to God and help your relationships thrive and flourish. Foster authentic connection with someone today! 

Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd is a regular columnist for Just Between Us, popular speaker, author, and life coach. She currently serves as the Founder and Executive Director of the nation’s First Digital Wellness Center at Liberty University where she is teaching theology and a healthy use of technology. You can reach her at www.ThriveinRealLife.com.


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