Over on The Living Church‘s Covenant Blog today, I write about how social media might serve as a tool for character development. Below, thinking about professional networks, accountability, and isolation, I consider another angle of this sticky, timely issue.
Unlike Columbia, South Carolina, where I now live, there are many cities that are simply too large to provide much accountability for one’s actions. In such a global age, building up a network for yourself which provides only the sort of feedback that you desire to hear, isolating yourself from any real challenge, is a frighteningly easy prospect. By not seeking out people with whom you disagree, and listening to them with respect and engagement, you lose not only opportunities to sharpen your own skills and work-excellence, but you put yourself in a position that provides little accountability.
Left to our own devices, we humans are a crooked lot. Together, we’re perhaps a little bit better off than by ourselves, but especially in the professional world, and even more so in fields where fellow professionals may be few and far between, establishing a little club of friends and building a wall about yourselves can lead to very serious myopia.
This double-edged sword of American individualism is duller on the side of accountability. As towns grow and people move more frequently, it is ever more rare to find and sustain deep friendships and professional relationships that provide the sort of accountability and character formation necessary to produce people of integrity. The internet, as I argue on the Covenant Blog, can provide some of this accountability, but for those not as engaged online, it is easy to slip into shallow relationships, or to drift out of someone’s life–even if you continue to live in the same place, because there are often plenty of people to keep the both of you otherwise occupied. Especially as Christians, we are mistaken to think that we have any right to any sort of privacy in the way we treat others (or even, I would argue, in what we do to or with ourselves).
There are many things that southern towns get right–keeping track of where her minister eats Saturday night’s dinner is not the least of them!