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Critics of church online all point to the sterility and breakdown of human connections across the digital highway.

Stefana Broadbent, an anthropologist who has studied human relationships across technology (cell phones, IM, Skype / video chatting, Facebook, etc) for over 20 years, has come to a different conclusion.

While you watch this video of her presentation on how the Internet and technology actually increases intimacy in human relationships, you’ll find the eerie Dunbar number coming up (120-150!). Technology hasn’t drastically increased the number of real connections we manage online – humans are in the end humans.

But of course there’s a little twist. . .

Did you notice the typical number of people each person connects with in close relationship (80%…___ intense relationships) when using technology mediums? Surprising? No?

Broadbent’s findings can have real implications for how church online approach and use technology to communicate and connect its people.

But this learning isn’t just applicable to digital worship communities trying to build out complete online church experiences. Technology won’t just by default destroy or degrade intimacy in relationships — it can actually leap across distance and social/cultural structures (like workplace rules) to enhance and build relationships where offline just can’t compete.

The presentation in this video is an interesting data point when thinking about how to approach the use of social media by pastors and churches.

What do you think?