Relationships are a crucial part of our lives. People who are socially connected with family, friends and community live happy, healthy and long lives. Relationships include intimate relationships between the partners, parent-child and sibling relationships, and bonds forged between friends, colleagues and larger community. Human beings crave for intimacy and feel the need to love and be loved.
Life has changed dramatically in the past few decades. The world has become inter-connected and integrated due to the wide-spread use of mobiles, email and social media platforms. It is easier to connect with people from far and wide. Paradoxically, it has become difficult to enter into and sustain serious relationships as connecting digitally is not the same as being together in the real world. Emojis cannot replace an actual person who can help during the darkest hour and be a constant companion amid the upheavals of life. Personal relationships are essential for a long life as research suggests that people with strong social relationships are less prone to die prematurely. Similarly, commitment to a partner adds years to life. Strong relationships are a major determinant to good health.
How Technology is Transforming Relationships
Technology is redefining the meaning of relationships. It has changed the way in which we interact with others. Social media apps such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Skype facilitate connection and communication within a matter of seconds. This has opened the possibility of meeting new people, exchanging experiences on a daily basis and sharing things from our lives. We go to the extent of sharing intimate details of our lives online, blurring the boundaries between the private and public. Technology has enabled people who never met earlier to call themselves friends, rendering the distinction between connections, acquaintances and real friends nebulous. We have entered into a new era that has re-written the rules and practices that have guided the birth and sustenance of relationships down the ages.
Internet dating and match-making websites have become a huge success in the recent past, especially among the 25-plus age group. These websites provide a platform to meet the right people and socialize in busy modern-day society from the comforts of the home and office environs. It needs emphasis that relationships would not mature into marriage until they transcend the virtual world into the real, and there are websites for cheap wedding dresses that would actualize the adage that marriages are made in heaven.
Computers and social media have become a standard tool of communication. Abbreviations such as LOL and ROFL may express our delight and appreciation, but are no substitute for actually seeing people laugh and lift our spirits when we are low. Making things worse, such abbreviations have infiltrated into the offline world as people can have entire text conversations that look like a foreign language to the uninitiated. This has become a modern-day poem of sorts and is here to stay.
Death of Good Old Conversations
We do not talk with our loved ones anymore. Even if there is an interaction, it is limited to a quick text message rather than a heart-to-heart conversation over the phone. On the other hand, we spend a great deal of time putting social status updates to superficial followers. The ubiquitous presence and convenience of mobile phones create the illusion of being available at the touch of a button and this, in turn, imposes an immense pressure to be so.
Transition to the Impersonal
The most deplorable aspect of modern relationships is the manner in which we chat with the significant other. It is one thing to send a quick text message at work to check about the day and remind of an impending appointment, but texting a partner when they are just across the room seems to indicate that there is something amiss in the relationship.
Using Technology to Build Relationships
Many deride Facebook as a distraction and blame it for snatching time away from valuable connections. But a Facebook message can also affirm others, make them feel better and bolster relationships as was done by handwritten notes in yester years.
Video recording is probably among the best ways of reaching out to others. Youtube and other services can send a personalized video greeting and connect with people in a humane manner. Video is a natural means of communication as people can watch the facial expressions, hear the voice inflections and view the surroundings. Being creative in connecting with people is the route to building strong and enduring relationships.
Believe it or not, videoconferencing tools such as Google Hangouts and Zoom can provide a boost to relationships. Video conferencing can help to connect with people in a frequent and cost-effective manner.
Today’s smart phone technology has made photography a breeze and an awesome endeavor. Creative ways to capturing important people in one’s life through photos can add value to others and zest to moribund relationships.
To conclude, technology is an amazing tool that has shrunk the world and brought us closer together. Technology should not be used to push us apart and tide over the uncomfortable fact of face-to-face confrontation as the internet and other electronic media transmit emotions poorly. Technology should, rather, build relationships and herald much-need transparency in communication. Supplementing tech-driven interactions with an in-person approach can shape and bolster relationships in the technological world of today.