While Christians are currently very excited about technology and our ability to use the tools responsibly and for the proper ends, the purpose of some of those technologies will be determined in part by the nature of who is using them. Subordinating our understanding of technology beneath a theology of presence orients us toward the people using tools, rather than the tools themselves. This isn’t an either/or, but I think we’ve got to get the order right.
There’s a deeply depersonalizing edge to contemporary technology that an account of presence cuts against. You can see it in the shift within evangelicalism from communion to communication. While communion is about the proper relationship of persons, communication (a derivative term, though not a bad one) is about the proper transfer of information.
Currently, the only way which we can notice or attend to others’ presence online is if they are active in some way. As online engagement increases, we run the risk of letting that sense of activity and doing overwhelm our more basic presence and being.
Distractions are increasing and we need to think through what presence looks like as a mode of life.