I wonder if technology and social media has compressed our relationships into a process that we can barely recognize?

That question is at the heart of Rhett Smith’s thoughtful blog post, Technology: Connected, Yet Lonelier Than Ever. He argues that by making it so easy to create nominal connections, technology can actually make it harder to create meaningful connections, because the process of developing relationship is in large part what creates relationship. (In this respect his post reminds me of Todd Essig on the value of saying good-bye).

Much to his credit, Smith’s post includes a recommended practice for how to avoid this thinning of relationship:

One of the ways that I have tried to work against this paradox is to try and make in person contact with the people that I communicate with online. Connecting in person with those I communicate with online helps me value the relational process and the friendship itself, and can help prevent me from compressing it into an “easy” or “like” button. It keeps me grounded.

I’d love to see Rhett Smith sit down with Diana Adams to talk about the relative merits of on- and offline relationship. Smith’s post makes me uneasy with its implicit deprecation of online connection relative to face-to-face interaction…which is why I’d like to see him take on Adams’ argument about recognizing online friendships as “real”.

But my own experience is that face-to-face time can make online friendships richer, even if 95% of your interactions are online. Smith’s practice is a great way to have the best of both worlds.