An Encouraging Word – To ‘friend’ and to be ‘friended’

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

There are friends who are friends in name only. Sirach 37:1

Several years ago, I read a story about neighbors finding the decomposed body of a man, still sitting in his recliner. He had been dead for over a year and the TV was still on! I read another story about a 40-year old woman in a busy London neighborhood who was found in her apartment.

She had been dead for two years.
We even had a senior priest in this diocese, a few years back, who had been dead in his apartment for several weeks before anyone found him.

I once had a funeral for an old woman, who had been dead for several weeks before neighbors started smelling the odor coming from her house. What was most sad was that her special-needs son, living with her, did not want them to come and get her.

I have a photo clipping about a woman here in Louisville who was found struck by a car out on the interstate. It shows her laid out in a local funeral home. No one showed up for her visitation, except for the one solitary stranger in the photo who had read about her in the paper and showed up to say a prayer.

In an era of advanced communication technologies, in which it appears that no one ever has a thought without having to call someone and talk about it, it seems implausible that the number of solitary deaths have been on the rise in countries such as ours.

Alienation, dubbed the “great emotional sickness of our era” by an Italian filmmaker, remains a disease that even email, cell phones and online networking has been powerless to remedy.

Some experts are even suggesting that our social bonds may be breaking down, not in spite of these new technologies, but because of them. A decade ago, when many of us started to go online, Apple, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Intel funded a research project to study the psychological and social effects of using the Internet.

While most first-time users went online for social purposes, the studies revealed the beginning of a steep decline in social activities beyond the net and increases in depression and loneliness.

While magazines like Fortune and Business Week boasted the virtues of “interactive” sites such as MySpace and YouTube, most of its users were found to be joining fewer clubs, talking less in-person and physically meeting up less often with friends. Critics of the studies seem to agree that there is more interaction, but less and less of it in person.

The problem, of course, is not the technology, but the fact that it discourages us from relating, face to face, with real people. We seem to talk more, communicate less and find ourselves even more desperate for human intimacy. I even saw a young woman once, at a traffic light, pathetically talking on two cell phones at once!

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.

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