Absent to Those Present: The Conflict between Connectivity and Communion

In Frank Scalambrino (ed.), Social Epistemology and Technology: Toward Public Self-Awareness Regarding Technological Mediation. Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 167-176 (2015)
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The Presocratic philosopher Heraclitus quoted an ancient Greek proverb, “Absent while present.” This paper argues that social technology, which makes us present to those absent, also makes us absent to those present. That is, technology connects our attentions to our virtual community of friends but in doing so it disconnects our attentions from those about us. Because we are finite beings, who dwell wherever our attentions reside, there is a real conflict between the connectivity of social technology and bodily communion with those about us. The interpersonal presence afforded by social technology is a presence purchased at a price: the absence of the body. What social technology is incapable of achieving is bodily presence, and bodily presence is needed for intimacy and friendship.
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