When I was a kid, “smart phones” were only in bad Mad Libs jokes, asking a girl on a date was done either in person or on a rotary dial while you stretched the cord into the bathroom and hoped no one was on the line upstairs, you actually sent and received handwritten snail mail on a regular basis from real people, and to find out what your friends did over the weekend you had to actually have a conversation with them.
The times, they are a changing.
While the incredible advances in technology have made it possible to connect with more people faster and closer than ever, sometimes taking a step back will show a lot of this movement is actually retrograde. Here is a look at four ways tech has shaped the modern family and human relationship, for better or for worse.
1) Facebook Official
Whether it’s your fifth or fiftieth time “going out,” modern social norms have pressured us into thinking your relationship is not official until its “Facebook official.” Of course, this doesn’t matter at all; but at the same time, it does. Sharing a “relationship status” over social media is followed by an abnormal number of likes and “Yay!” comments, introducing extended family and friends on both sides to the electronic snapshot of the significant other.
According to The Huffington Post, approximately 33% of people have broken up with their ex over Facebook or text, over half the population will friend a person of interest on Facebook after meeting them, and a quarter of the population will Google them for more info.
While staying connected and learning more about someone can be a good thing, it can also raise questions about a “silver screen” that is put between healthy real human interaction.
67% of partners will call each other daily; 65% will text, and 38% of those will text more than 11 times daily; 45% will message each other over Facebook; 34% will email each other; and approximately a quarter of relationships will IM or Facebook chat every day.
According to a recent survey about online dating, of the 54 million singles in America, 41 million had at one point tried dating online, spending an average of $239 a year. The gender split is almost equal at 52% men and 47% women. Almost half of participants say looks are the most important factor when choosing a mate over the web. However, though men are most prone to lie about how tall they are and how much money they make, women are most likely to lie online about their appearance. Still almost 20% of modern committed relationships and marriages begin from online dating.
A new dating app called Happn is trying to create a hybrid between real life interaction and online discovery: connecting people with those they cross paths with based on immediate physical location.
Still, nothing beats looking into the eyes of someone and knowing it’s love at first sight, holding hands on a summer evening without a care in the world, talking across a candle-lit table about whatever, it doesn’t matter, or watching the sunset on the beach with their head on your shoulder.
As long as the internet leads back to that, we won’t complain.
2) Return to Sender
In 1987, the average household received a hand written letter every two weeks. In 2010 it was every seven. In the same year, the U.S. Postal Service reported a decline in revenue by $8 billion year over year.
Though email, chat, and text may be “easier,” nothing will take away the luster of touching handwritten heartfelt words.
3) “Are You Texting Each Other?”
Ever people watch at the restaurant and notice how many couples are texting during the meal without actually talking to each other? Those in the service industry will remember those tables of young people that completely ignore the server while being glued to their smartphones. There’s a healthy medium, and it’s not that.
Magic secret to showing you care: put the phone down.
4) Work Ethic
While instant messaging over internal work software or Google+ can be extremely efficient for sharing info and saving a walk to another department, often work associates will continue to IM someone they sit three feet away from or be awkward around the water cooler with the same people. Making it a point to actually get up a talk to the people you work with has become something that takes effort given modern tech.
Chances are, technology has connected you to more people from the past and present than you could have been connected to a generation ago. Seeing what everyone’s doing on Facebook, following the dumb things people say on Twitter, and being available to chat overseas with your brother in the Navy over Skype all have definite advantages. However, the old ways of reaching out and touching the person next to you, having a handful of quality friends and trusted business associates, and also spending actual “face time” with the one you love cannot and will not be replaced, though technology may have ways to enhance it.
And I’ll drink to that.
A former Internet Marketing Manager, Joe Cunningham is a dad, a screenwriter, playwright and all-around adventurer. He blogs for Kinani Blue and charms Google at Terakeet. You can follow him on Twitter at @IndianaJoe77 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.