How Technology Has Changed How We Relate To Each Other

by | May 24, 2010

Facebook, My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn, SMS, Messenger, iChat … the way we communicate has changed so much in the last few years.  Now, when my friend meets a new guy, the first thing she does is check him out in cyberspace.  She Googles him and follows all the links to his facebook page, My Space page, etc.  She says she likes to know who he is; whereas I say that’s what talking is for!Â

Technology enables relationships (both friendships and sexual) to move along quickly, providing snippets of information that make people feel as if they know all about each other before emotional depth has been established.  Facebook posts make people appear open and convince the reader that they now know all about that person, but how true are the posts?  Everyone puts their best “face” forward on Facebook where positive spin is the norm.  And just because you know that they are feeling L right now, does that mean you are really connecting emotionally with them?  And anyway, how many “friends” can someone really need?

According to a recent Oxford University study completed by Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology, humans appear incapable of maintaining more than about 150 active relationships.  The study tracked traffic on Facebook and found that no matter how many friends people had, they only communicated with up to 150 of those.  So all those people who have 300, 400 even 500 friends on Facebook?  They’re kidding themselves!

And what about all the negative aspects to this new technology?  “Sexting,” the sending of explicit photos between cell phones, is on the increase and in many cases has been used to either blackmail, humiliate or bully the photographed individual.  Cyber-bullying is now a recognized crime; some teenagers have even committed suicide after being on the receiving end of tormenting emails, web posts, Facebook rants and sexting.  Has this brave new world of technology created as many victims as it has beneficiaries?  Or would these people have been victims anyway?  Is it just HOW they are bullied that has changed?  And how do censorship laws and bullying laws protect the innocent whilst not creating a police state online?

Not only has technology altered how we relate to each other it has also changed how we meet each other.  According to Match.com, one in five relationships are now formed through individuals using an online dating agency.  That’s 20 people out of every 100.  I have talked before about how society has changed regarding how relationships are formed and how we no longer have access to the extended family and community connections that our parents and our grandparents had access to.Â

Call me an old-fashioned girl, but when did communication become so detached?  Is “connecting” on Facebook really a connection?  A lot of personal feelings and opinions are shared online but does this lead to more connection … or less?  Technology enables people to be available any time, anywhere.  But is this a good thing?  Some of my friends start getting paranoid if their partner doesn’t answer their calls, thinking he must be avoiding them.  When I try to say that maybe he has his cell turned off they look at me as if I am mad – who turns their cell off?  Well, me actually.  The ability to switch off is one of the things we lost when we gained all this new technology.Â

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone, my Facebook account, and I Tweet but I also value the personal contact of telephone and face-to-face communications.  No online chat or single line SMS can replace that feeling of emotional connection and support you get from a hug from a friend.

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