With my 20th high school class reunion coming up this month, I'm thinking more about the unexpected dynamics of being in touch. When I grew up, there was little reason to expect that we'd one day have access to an almost immediate, almost universal electronic address book. There wasn't much reason to think of what keeping relationships over distance or time would look like—it'd probably be the same as our parents, concentrated locally and currently with a few ties farther out and farther behind. Even in the category of "current and local" we'd be understandably limited, so much so that we didn't even think of it as a limit at all.
Now I can seemingly "be in touch" with exponentially more people, in more ways and at more times. There's almost nowhere from which I can't make a phone call. Writing an email theoretically takes a few minutes with immediate delivery. Social networks keep me "connected" with hundreds if not thousands. And yet, there's no actual increase in capacity. Not only do I have the same number of hours in the day as my parents, but I also have the same relational limits—just because I have data and means to be in relationship with such a deep and wide field of people doesn't mean I really can. But it may seem as if I can, to me and to others.
Ultimately, that means making choices. Hardly a revolutionary realization, and yet I wonder if many of us realize we need to do so (and are doing so, in some way). If I'm going to be here now and not feel constantly fragmented, behind, and/or guilty, I have to choose. And beyond my own need to choose and have peace with those choices, there's also the question of how we relationally deal with the choices we individually must make.
No matter how we dress it up, we're more and more likely to find ourselves in situations painfully reminiscent of picking teams on a playground—I choose you; I don't choose you. The luxury of just dropping off of someone's radar is quickly vanishing, exposing the fact that's always been true: we make choices. Can we accept that from one another gracefully in relationship? That can be a steep hill to climb—not only do we have the "normal" feelings of loss, but we've also got the sensitivities and wounds from our pasts with which to contend. Again, while that's always been the case, we're losing much of the plausible deniability (on all sides) that used to help smooth the rough edges of stark reality.