Further Perspectives on Relationships and the Web

Recently I had a good conversation with a friend about relationships and the web, it seems I get into conversations like this rather often, and in this conversation some new ideas were shaped for me. I thought I’d write some of those ideas out. There are a variety of different forms that relationships take but for this post I will limit it to forms of proximity.


There are at least two major groups of relationship we experience those of localization and those of non-localization.

Relationships of Localization
Our most important relationships are formed around localization, whether this is family, church and faith groups and/or working relationships. The people we see most often, and deal with regularly tend to be those who are closest in proximity to us. I am in real relationship with my wife, my housemates, my co-workers and my small group. When I am spending personal time with people it’s these people I am relating too. When I am being challenged by some one, or am struggling with another in their own life, it is most often with people who are in my local community.

There is something deep and connecting about relating to one another in a physical, eye-to-eye manner, that cannot be given up for other forms. We need to be able to have those people we see, hear, smell and touch, close to us; people who love us and dislike us, and people who we love and who we dislike. The human person is shaped by these things.

Relationships of Non-Localization
I am a huge proponent of using the web as a tool for information and communication. When my friend and I chatted I had to be careful to not be “defensive?? about the meaningful relationships I’ve built over the web. Meaningful relationships can be built over the web, telephone, letters and instant messaging programs but in a much different way then localized relationships.

Two possible types of relationships come out of this group: maintenance types, and idea sharing types. Maintenance relationships are not bad, despite the possible negative connotation with the word. In fact we all have a lot of maintenance relationships, because in this day and age we move a lot. Maintenance friendships are people we already have a relationship with and we believe they are worth keeping no matter where we live. I have a number of people who fall into this category for me. Often times there is even the hope that we may be together again with these people we are now separated by distanced.

Lastly there is the relationship that is based on idea sharing. This is largely how relationships begin over the web. I find a blog that i really like and begin to read it for ideas, sooner or later I decide to contact the writer and initiate some kind of correspondence, and we participate in emailing, instant messaging, and maybe evening setting up some time to meet. This is largely how the “convergent friends?? conversation began. This is the beauty of the internet, we can share ideas across huge distances and massive differences in world-views, motivated by learning about one another and new ideas. Idea sharing and maintenace relationships, so far as I can tell, are not meant to be our primary relationships but supplements of them.

I think there is a lot more to say about all this but we’ll leave this to be a beginning.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

7 thoughts on “Further Perspectives on Relationships and the Web”

  1. The relationships I’ve participated in online have helped deepen some of my location relationships. Through blogging I’ve had conversations that have challenged me, and I’ve brought those conversations to folks around me as I continue to process and sort things out. Likewise, the relationships around me influence the relationships I have online: if I find a trick that helps my little one fall asleep faster, I want to share it with my online friends who could benefit from it (like mama bloggers).

    Great thoughts: I’ll have to share them with folks in my workshop today. 🙂

  2. I appreciated your article in Quaker Life,”Convergent Friends”. I especially liked the spirit it was given in. I pray for more men and women to carry on expressing the Good News of Christ in our needy world. It is hard to imagine that in the short period that George Fox lived he and his valiant sixty brought in 650,000 followers.
    Keep the faith my young Friend!
    Earl J Prignitz

  3. Yes, Wess, dialogue is often good.

    (Not so for cheap imitations with dubious morpholectic suffixes.)

    Sometimes the blind hear better than the sighted.

    But, we’re all blind, else we would know all the answers, and we wouldn’t have to search for them.

    “Nothing is hidden, except that it might be revealed.”

    There are conversations that cannot be had face-to-face.

    There are other kinds, too.

    I like these colors somewhat better. The Halloween decor seemed more than just a bit early.

    It’s always better not to plan too far ahead. (Rev. 22:7)

    John

  4. John, Hey thanks for the comment. I hadn’t considered the Halloween-esque colors but I suppose they are fitting for me as I am a halloween baby, born October 27th. Maybe that’s why I like the colors too.

    And yes, one reason why I thoroughly enjoy internet is because we cannot have dialogue face-to-face sometimes.

  5. I enjoyed this article. I have given much thought to this topic. It seems I have built many relationships over the years. One thing I despise about relationships is that the vast majority of them eventually change. So many of my “changed” relationships are due to distance. The internet definitely helps maintain the “base” necessary for life-long friendships.

  6. Micah, I totally agree with you. It’s given us a more accessible way to reach each other, keep tabs on what’s going on, and also continue to challenge ideas and growth.

    It was good to see you yesterday, I wished it could have been a bit longer. Thanks for commenting.

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