A few years ago, one of the younger workers I supervise came up to me and asked if I ever texted. I said yes as I was using texts to communicate with some of my kids who lived out of state. She asked if I knew how to text using only symbols and offered to show me how. I said I was willing to try. A few moments later, I received a text of an X and D which she said meant really laughing hard. Little did I know she had such prophetic abilities.
I looked at a list of symbols and texted back }:-( which I took to mean please do your work and was thinking this is not so hard. Within another few seconds I heard the co-worker’s giggles and I received the following: “Funny, John. You just sent me the obviously important announcement of A toupee blowing in the wind! I thought your hair was real.”
One aspect of our lives that is in a constant flux is communication. The goal seems to be speed, brevity and ease of use; which is good for most types of communication. But then I wonder; if relationships are based on communication, how do the present trends affect relationships. Understand as I said in the first post, what follows are my observations and wonderings about the changes I see around me.
One relationship affected by technology would be with simple friends. In the past, these are people whom we would see occasionally, maybe accompany to activities, call on the telephone and sometimes exchanged letters or cards. Technology, basically in the form of Facebook at least in the United States, has morphed the term friend into something different. The average user on Facebook has over 130 friends. You friend someone to expand your circle of Facebook contacts. You may or may not have ever met a friend on Facebook. The process of unfriending someone, thus making them somewhat of an outcast, is no more difficult than friending them in the first place. And since you usually only unfriend a person with whom you are upset, for some it is more satisfying process.This all seems to make the friend relationship somewhat like a disposable diaper – once a friend has served their purpose, out they go.
Statistics from 2015 (Pew Research Center) show that 91% of US teens daily go on the internet through a mobile device. Of those teens with a cell phone, 91% text each day with females averaging over 40 texts per day, increasing to 50 a day the closer they get to the age 18. Add to those texts the use of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Vine. It is easy to see that teen relationships are being built almost 24 hours a day through texted words, recorded videos and live video chat. With what seems to be endless access, a potential weakness appears to be that relationships are initiated, grown and ended at a tremendous rate due to the exposure to so many other teens and the potential to find other more compatible friends.
So how is this negative you may ask? It appears to be the same way people have been finding friends for years, just at an accelerated rate. True, there is the positive aspect that a person can find more friends due to the greater number of choices. But it is just as true that negative influences are more likely to occur as the number of people with whom you come in contact increases. Still to be considered is the effect of technology on developing romantic relationships. Better said, what are the differences between online versus face to face relationships.
Obviously, if you want to find someone who is compatible with you, using one of the multitude of dating sites opens innumerable possibilities. These services are even willing to provide you with a list of whom their particular program decides are the perfect matches for you. HMMM. If you are married, write down a 100-word description of yourself and have your spouse read it. See if he/she agrees with you. In fact, share it with your best friend and see what they think. And yet these services, most of whom guarantee a perfect match, have only the information that the interested parties provide. No room for misrepresentation there!
So now you have the perfect match list and not to appear too anxious, you send a text or email saying that you received their info from whatever service and you want to get to know them better. Of course you cannot see their reaction so as you wait and wait for an answer, you begin to doubt this whole process. But this is the best that technology can offer so you go with it.
And then there are the relationships that never go beyond the texting or Skype or video chat stage as you do not ever actually physically meet the other person. It could be a common interest or maybe an online support group that keeps the relationship going. There are countless online gaming or fantasy sports leagues that seem to go on endlessly. And then there are those online relationships that start out so harmlessly but end up in a completely inappropriate and sinful place. This is usually a result of multiple factors too numerous to explore here. Sufficient to say, these sort of relationships never end up with a positive result.
So how has technology affected relationships? It seems to run the whole spectrum. There is the ability to communicate with increasingly more people with minimal effort. You can actually see people living in places who you would never be able to see. You can find out a lot about another person without having to see them face to face. Again I need to say HMMM. All these positive could be negatives or at least seed for a negative.
While it may appear to be a cop out, I think technology in relationships is only as good as the person who uses it. Since none of us is good, if you use technology in any way, but especially in building or maintaining relationships, make sure you have secured your most important connection first; the one with your Savior. Then go ahead, use and experience another one of his blessings so lovingly prepared for you.
Stop back and let me know how this all works for you. I will wait you.