Cyber-Culture Verses Real Hospitality

[caption id="attachment_124" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Is coffee talk on the endangered list?"][/caption] Have you ever received a picture of a cup of coffee, or cocktail on your Facebook page?  Yesterday I was sent a virtual fortune cookie to open.  I know that I have been guilty of texting pictures of birthday cakes to people on their special day.  (Or big lips to my husband while he’s at work.)  I suppose it’s a cute way to show someone we are thinking of them, even though we can’t be together.  But, is it really because we can’t be together, or because it’s just easier to have cyber-coffee than actually inviting someone over for a real cup of mudd (mudd is way yummier than mud, by the way)?  A cup of cyber-coffee doesn’t require any housework, actual use of resources, or investment in the bona fide time of a visit.  In this article, I would like to contemplate some of the benefits and obstacles of relationships in the cyber-universe, compared to face-to-face hospitality. I guess you could say that in both worlds we are making a culture and hopefully, something worth sharing with others.  If I’m using Facebook and blogging as two of my primary cyber-examples, they both reveal something about ourselves: through pictures, our friends, what we have to say…We have the control in both our homes and our web spaces for self expression.  However, the cyber-page is admittedly a much easier venue than a home to carry on a facade of status.  For example: I can show you my best pictures of my best moments.  I don’t have to dust my webpage, and I don’t have to wash an empty cyber-cup.  You will see my kids smiling and having fun; not whining, tattling, and leaving all their shoes peppered around the house.  Face-to-face hospitality requires much more work and honesty.  Although, when we are unable to keep in physical touch, it is a wonderful pleasure to cyber-communicate.  It can also be an easy temptation to get lazy in our actual call to be hospitable. The cyber-world isn’t an evil.  Many more relationships can be made and maintained through its beneficial resources.  I am happy to have them.  Yet, we need to be careful in substituting our face-to-face opportunities for cyber ones.  I’m not just suggesting a balance between the two either.  Our concrete opportunities should occupy more time, shouldn’t they?  To keep it real, it actually has to be real.  If half our personal time is spent in cyber-relationships, we can become disillusioned.  Our cyber-communication is lacking in the nuances used to pick up on the nonverbal gestures, chemistry, and intent of the words communicated.  As we hide behind our posts and profile pictures, we may become more bold and lost in fantasy.  Our “material” relationships are our reality check.  We actually have to ask questions instead of checking our news feed.  What’s on our mind may be longer than what is customarily posted on our wall.  We are part of an open dialogue, rather than one-dimensional communication.  You see, our cyber-friends can be kept at an arm’s length away, becoming a noble way to have relationship without service. The description for this website is the gospel interrupting the ordinary.  Cyber-life has become the ordinary.  How do these connections both help and hinder believers as ambassadors of the Good News?  We certainly have been blessed with the opportunity to send information, receive prayer requests, updates, connect with diverse cultures, mission efforts, and distant friends and family in a way that our forefathers could have only dreamed.  For that, it is a blessing.  And with blessing comes responsibility.  It can be so easy to take our new ease of relationship for granted. Many times new technology can replace the old way of doing things.   As so many careers are spent in front of a computer, let’s try to make a conscious effort in face-to-face hospitality for our personal lives. So I end this post with a challenge.  Once a week, substitute some cyber-time for coffee-talk--real coffee talk (or hot tea, dessert, lunch…).  After all, when Peter gave the imperative to be hospitable, I don’t think he had chat rooms in mind. 1 Peter 4:9