Digital Relationships

     A Boston College philosophy professor; who teaches a class that examines spirituality, relationships and personal development, gives extra credit to any student who will go on a date. Contemporary students gravitate to group activities that give them a feeling of security and minimize rejection.  Personal relationships take place through texting and a hookup culture that consists of anything on the spectrum of sexual activity with strangers or acquaintances rather than with committed partners.

     While social media, particularly texting, gives the illusion of connection to another person, the digital bursts of 140-250 characters from a “virtual self” builds habits of ADD connections. They cannot possibly have the depth of face to face conversations and relationships.

     Critics of hookup relationships and  the digital culture point to the chaos and the loneliness they create.  In addition there is the fear that fleeting contacts, whether physical or digital, will prevent young people and even older contemporaries from developing successful long term relationships in life.

     This is where the courting culture of 50 to 60 years ago, rooted in religious traditions, has something to offer.  It created a framework of important values that stressed integrity and consideration for each person entering a relationship.  The social script included manners and defined roles so that people who went on dates knew what to expect.  We should, of course, remember the wise words of the sage: “Don’t say: ‘How has it happened that former times were better than these?’ For it is not wise of you to ask that question” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).  But somehow it would be helpful to revive and reshape the dating script and its value structure for our time and place.  It would be like pouring old wine into new bottles.


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About Rabbi Joseph Schultz, PhD

Dr. Joseph Schultz served as Rabbi for congregations in Brookline, MA, Norwich, CT and Cambridge, MA. Dr. Schultz founded the Jewish Studies Program at Boston University where he was Assistant Professor of Religion and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where he was Oppenstein Brothers Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies. He helped establish the Center for Religious Studies in 1996, a consortium of six colleges, theological schools and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, offering an interdisciplinary graduate program for the PhD in Religious Studies. Dr. Schultz was its first director.

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