Technology that isolates can bring us together

Mar 23, 2020 by

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How quickly things change. Only a few weeks ago it was fashionable to lament the isolating power of technology and the relentless march of individualism.

Now we know otherwise. The coronavirus has illustrated how tightly knit humanity really is.

Making itself at home in more than 100 countries and every continent, COVID-19 has rendered geographic distance and national borders quaint.

The Western world has been critiqued aplenty for celebrating individuality and dismissing communitarianism. Yet here we are, struggling mightily with the prospect of keeping our distance for the foreseeable future.

As introverts quietly accept their ascendency and contemplate a future without shaking hands, broader society is getting to know a certain flavor of Anabaptist gelas­senheit.

The concept of “yieldedness,” — submission to the will of God and the common good — is a key part of life for the Amish, another tightly connected group.

Modernity’s aggressive individualism clashes with the idea of deferring to a community, but self-sacrifice and physical isolation seem to be the only way a large population can slow down COVID-19. Such submission just isn’t the American way, which makes the challenge that much more jarring.

As Congress finds common ground in response to a public-health emergency and economic crisis, Washington’s newfound yieldedness may even have potential to ebb partisan strife.

COVID-19 caught us unprepared, has few cures or treatments and seems like it needs to run its course. It’s the reason why the president, state governors and other political leaders around the world are imploring their citizens to get just a little Amish and withdraw from society — temporarily.

But we’ve never been more connected. As churches and colleges follow the corporate world’s trend of meeting online, anyone with a computer or phone can create community with the touch of a button. The technology that isolates is the same technology that brings us together.

Striking the right balance ­isn’t easy, which made the timing serendipitous for Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s “Shaping Faith in a Digital Culture” event March 2-5. Presenters offered tips on using technology critically and selectively to love God and neighbors, rather than becoming lost in addiction or self-loathing.

Osheta Moore’s suggestions about modeling God’s justice and goodness online grew in importance after the conference, when mandates to limit interpersonal contact reduced chances for positive interactions.

Social media can be mired in narcissism and negativity, but plugged-in Christians are needed because the world is “full of hurting people looking for love,” Moore said. “They are deeply loved by God, and they don’t even know it.”

Take some time to let someone know.


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