“…media means middle; it’s from the Latin for middle. When you put a device in the middle, between people, you distance us from one another, and this is actually the power of media. The more I can control the mediating channel, the less you really know about me.”
Andy Crouch, Partner for Theology and Culture with Praxis, speaking to Mike Cosper, host of Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise And Fall of Mars Hill.”
Over the past two years, I’ve been in on a number of discussions about the value of face to face communication compared to interactions which are “mediated” (see the quote above) by technology. One ministry colleague maintains that video calls (Zoom, etc.) are 80% as effective as live, face to face meetings.
I beg to differ. I can’t prove this – has anybody studied this? – but I would argue that Zoom meetings are less than 50% as effective as live meetings, especially at communicating emotional (not cognitive) content. If all you want to do is one-way content dumping, Zooming is fine.
We’ll get to the Bible verses in a moment, but consider this: A legitimate test for the quality of one-on-one interactions is how long they last.
No, I’m not going to say that “shorter is better.” I’m saying that, generally speaking, the more we enjoy, the more we are blessed by, a one-on-one interaction, the longer we want it to last.
Did you really “speed date” your wife before you married her?
When you really need a job, do you want a short job interview or a long one?
Can you really have a quick interaction with a dear old friend you haven’t seen for a long time?
Here’s how it works for me: If I have an initial get together with a pastor over breakfast or lunch – something I love to do – we’re usually drinking coffee and laughing for at least an hour and a half. Two hours is not uncommon, and three hours is not unheard of.
If, however, I have to have such a meeting in the pastor’s study, it’s usually less than an hour. If I try to do an initial, getting-to-know-you session with a video call or a voice call, one half hour is pushing it.
In my coaching of pastors, I’m willing to drive an hour, meeting the pastor half-way, in order to meet with him face to face. I will coach pastors through the “medium” of technology if I have to, but I’d rather not.
There’s something about face to face isn’t there?
How many of you want to interact with your children or grandchildren over a voice or video call? How many of you want to “get your hands on them” and squeeze?
God knew this, of course. Consider the language of Hebrews one:
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets in many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” Hebrews 1:1-2a
As many have pointed out, it doesn’t say that God has now spoken to us through His Son, it says that He has spoken to us by His Son, or even, “in the language of His Son,” or “in Son language.”
One generation saw the Son of God, in the flesh, and it changed the world forever.
I’m going to let the Apostle John take over this post. I think his words speak volumes.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
So how much of an impression did this make on John?
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” I John 1:1
One brief comment: Ross Campbell (How To Really Love Your Child) maintained that love gets communicated by way of physical contact, eye contact and focused attention. If this is true, and I believe it is, how well can we communicate love through our computer screens?
I believe the “Apostle of love” took God’s example to heart:
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” II John 12
Was this a one-off comment, or did it reflect something ongoing in the Apostle’s life?
“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” III John 13, 14a
Is a text better than an email? Maybe.
Is a phone call better than a text? Yes.
Is a Zoom call better than a phone call? Certainly.
Do you want the full joy that loving human interaction has to offer? Then, if at all possible, meet your friend face to face.