My friend Jenny posted a link to this excellent and funny article the other day; entitled 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable, it's about how we grow farther apart the more technology develops. The main reason this is so, the article opines, is that technology makes us less and less adept at dealing with difficult people, because we are able to structure our lives in such a way as to shut them out as much as possible. Technology allows us to spend time solely with those with whom we have much in common, it filters our news until we hear only our own viewpoint, and it keeps us physically isolated even in commercial transactions (don't like to shop? try it online!).
Many social scientists have made similar arguments, and I think they are all fairly valid. I also think this trend towards selective isolation makes it harder as Christians to live as God commanded us: in community with one another. We are meant to be together, rubbing shoulders with one another for better or worse. In so doing, we provide not just intentional encouragement; we also provide one another with a path to become more holy, mainly by being at one point or another the annoying thorn in another person's side. God commanded us to live together so that we might share each other's burdens, and might from time to time be the burden that another needs to seek God's grace in bearing. In so doing, this person may find patience, wisdom, self-control: all fruits of of the spirit that God wants us to exhibit. As Frederica Mathewes-Green points out in her fantastic book, The Illumined Heart, God has given each of us the people in our lives for a reason: we help in one another's theosis - the process in which God's life fills and transforms us.
As is commonly said in the Orthodox Church, we are saved together but damned alone. The Church is God's gift to us - a gift of togetherness and community in which we need to participate, to the benefit of others and ourselves as well.
Icon is Christ - Pantocrator, 'Ruler of all', Serbian monastery Hilandar, Mt.Athos, 13th century