Shane Hipps, in his book Flickering Pixels, talks about anonymous intimacy in regard to electronic communication. He says,
This anonymous intimacy has a strange effect. It provides just enough connection to keep us from pursuing real intimacy. In a virtual community, our contacts involve very little real risk and demand even less of us personally. Vulnerability is optional. A community that promises freedom from rejection and makes authentic emotional investment optional can be extremely appealing, remarkably efficient, and a lot more convenient (p. 113-114).
Hipps points out that social networking and electronic communication can be attractive for many reasons. However, authentic investment on a social and emotional scale is needed for genuine relationships. We need to embrace the technological opportunities in front of us but we cannot get into the trap of having it as our only means of communication. In many instances, email and chatting might be very effective. However, in others, it lacks the richness that embodies the totality of human communication and therefore impacts the messages sent and received.
Hipps goes on to say...
Given the limitations of email, the chances of miscommunication are near certain...Using email to mediate conflict is like baking a cake without a mixing bowl or an oven. The very ingredients that make reconciliation possible are absent. Reconciliation comes in the context of clear communication, meaningful listening, shared understandings, civility, openness, and a lot of patience. The medium of email inevitably removes these delicate ingredients...Electronic text as a medium stunts our best efforts to resolve conflict (p. 118-119).
Whether it is conflict or just daily communication, I think Hipps articulates an important value of not getting sucked into a shallow world. As in so many areas of our life, balance is not just desired, but desperately needed. Embrace electronic communication and tools in certain areas but be intentional to retain, promote, and sustain the vibrancy of authentic intimacy in our communication and relationships. Don't settle for something that ultimately leave you empty.