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Feeling Disconnected in an Interconnected World

(10:00 p.m. on a School Night)

My Son: “Is the internet down? I can’t get online!”

Me: “I’m not sure. Try refreshing your browser.”

My Son: “I did that. I still can’t get online.”

Me: “Have you tried rebooting your computer? Let me know if that fixes the problem.”

The internet has put endless amounts of information at our fingertips, but for most people, has complicated the process of developing deep, meaningful relationships.

(Minutes later)

My Son: “I rebooted my computer and I still can’t get online. I think there’s something wrong with the network.”

Me: “Alright (sigh), let me check. Why do you need to get online anyway? It’s late!”

My Son: “I’m working on a class assignment and need to access my document in the cloud.”

Me: “Is it urgent? Is it due tomorrow? Does it have to be done tonight?”

My Son: “No. But I have 3 tests and another major assignment due this week and if I don’t work ahead now, I’m going to get slammed later in the week. That’s why I need to get online.”

Me (Yelling from another room): “I just rebooted the modem. Did that work?”

My Son: “No. I still can’t connect to the network.”

An exasperated Me: “Arrrggghhhhhh!!!!!” (shaking fist in the air)

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario (which happened in our home not long ago). We’ve become so integrated with the internet via our computers, tablets and phones that when the network goes down, we’re not sure how to function. Panic can set in when we try easy troubleshooting tactics and still can’t fix the issue.

AT&T had a whole ad campaign a few years ago connected to this theme. Their ads showed humorous responses a family had after being disconnected from the internet at home for 4 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes and so forth. The ads always concluded by saying, “Keep Calm, your internet is on.” AT&T then touted their 99% reliability rating in providing consistent and uninterrupted internet service to their customers. (See YouTube video at: https://youtu.be/zYys_Jg9xz4 )

The internet is an amazing tool that has allowed people to be instantly connected to information. Whatever you want or need, it’s all there at the click of a button.

Photo by Marina Shatskih from Pexels

As helpful as this information may be, it can make meaningful relational connection more difficult.

The internet has enabled us to have access to seemingly endless information about our friends. We see what they’re doing on Facebook. We see their photos on Instagram. We know what they’re thinking by the tweets they post. And yet ironically, we feel even more disconnected! And in another strange twist, all this information can make us feel worse about our own lives as we see all the fun adventures people are posting about themselves. We can mistakenly believe that our friends don’t have the same problems or deal with the same issues we’re dealing with.

Almost universally, as I meet with Young Professionals, they tell me of their desire to have deeper relational connections and the challenges they face in experiencing those kinds of relationships in today’s digital culture. Sadly, for many Young Professionals, the struggle to find meaningful community can even extend to their church.

I sat across a table recently with a Young Professional who told me very directly of his frustration to find real community within his church. He’d been in several Bible Studies that didn’t last and after attending church regularly for several years, he found that his closest friends were all outside of the church. He’s been struggling lately to understand the purpose and relevance of church in his life, which has given birth to a seed of disillusionment.

Unfortunately, we’ve found that this is not an isolated occurrence with this generation of Young Professionals.

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

So how can you create more community? How can you develop more meaningful relational connections?

There is no magic bullet, but here are some suggestions that may be helpful:

1. Recognize that relationships take work and often sacrifice. The easy thing is to go home after work and binge on Netflix. The harder thing is to create time in your schedule to actually connect face to face with another person.

 

2. Recognize the limitations and the lies of social media. We’re realizing more than ever that social media is not a substitute for live, face-to-face interactions with others. Sure, social media can be a great tool to stay connected with what’s happening with your friends, but there’s just something different when you’re able to be in the presence of another person, read their body language, dialogue back and forth in real time and connect soul to soul. People tend to open up more in person and you realize that the image people portray on social media doesn’t tell the full story about what’s going on in their lives.

3. Take the initiative with others. Believe me, as an introvert, I know this can be difficult. But the payoff is worth it. As you’re texting your friend, invite them to meet up some time for coffee. Ask a friend to sit with you at church instead of going alone. Think of routine activities that you could invite others to do with you.

4. Think of open-ended, deeper-level questions you can ask when you meet with people. And when given the opportunity, open up and be vulnerable with others when appropriate. Deeper relational connections require you to open yourself up to others.

5. Join a small group at church or get involved in a Meet-Up group that is centered around an interest of yours.

 

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas, but this is just a start. 

The need for deeper community is universal…it’s not just an issue for millennials. But we know there are unique factors that make it especially difficult for Young Professionals to find community and feel connected.

We exist as a ministry to help Young Professionals thrive spiritually and live missionally. Our mission is to come alongside Young Professionals and help connect them to resources and services that will make it easier to walk with Jesus and live with purpose.

One of the things we’ve created to help is what we call Leadership Development Groups. Leadership Development groups have been designed to help connect like-minded Young Professionals with each other and more deeply process life issues in a cohort type of environment.

Contact us if you’re interested in finding out more about our Leadership Development groups or any of the other opportunities we offer to help Young Professionals continue in their spiritual journey.

David Lowe