The caveat first, followed by the but

First, I believe, as many of us intuitively recognize, that technology in many ways has stunted our capacity to connect meaningfully with other people. Of course, it allows us to form a myriad of networks through which we transfer and trade information, yet that is communication as commodity, not communication that nurtures the messy, demanding, unpredictable qualities of sincere relationships. Our submission to the demands of our technologies, our complicity in the absences we feel in our humanity, is well chronicled by the likes of Sherry Turkle and other keen social observers…

but, this week I strolled along one of my favorite London pathways along the River Thames past the jetty pictured in the image above. Sixteen years ago, when I was courting my wife (then girlfriend), I used to telephone her in New York on my mobile phone. I often would step out onto this pier absorbing the immense physical and historical presence of the river and the London skyline, while simultaneously deepening an intimate relationship across the ocean to the new world.  Across chronological and geographic distance, using the telephone, email and handwritten correspondence, our relationship blossomed.

I still have concerns about technology’s reduction of our relational lives, yet my own experience suggests it may allow for fulfilling connection between us. So what is that quality that differentiates instances when technology facilitates authentic bonding as opposed to merely functional connection?