Dating, virtually

May 31, 2006 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

9096181.gifAt the end of last semester, I read part of a book by Howard Rheingold called Smart Mobs. It’s about technology and culture in the age of instant access.

In one chapter, Rheingold examines how cell phones are affecting culture and communication in places like Scandinavia and Japan, which are home to some of the most technologically adept people in the world.

The whole chapter is an insightful (frightening?) look at the increasing prevalence of technology and the way in which it is removing people from a physical world to a virtual one, but there was one line in particular that caught my eye. Rheingold noted that as part of Scandinavia’s texting culture, “Younger adolescents have been observed to carry on entire dating relationships exclusively through SMS messages.”

Whole relationships conducted solely through a cell phone? What in the world? I thought that was a little bizarre, but I assumed it had to be an isolated phenomenon.

A couple weeks after I read Smart Mobs, however, my uncle came to visit. He’s the IT director for a conservative Christian college in the Midwest, and one afternoon, he was lamenting about some of the difficulties his college is facing. He mentioned that the administration was having problems getting the students to date.

“They are on their computers and other gadgets constantly,” he groaned. “They talk to each other online or on their cell phones, but we can’t get them out of their rooms to actually spend any time with each other.”

Uh, ok. So maybe it’s not an isolated phenomenon.

Then last week while my family was in Ireland, we stayed at a bed and breakfast operated by a woman and her husband who have five children. The oldest girl, Elise, got a cell phone at Christmas. According to the mother, whose accuracy was confirmed by one of her sons, the 17-year-old girl has sent a total of 10,000 text messages on her phone in the past 5 months.

“Elise came to me a few weeks ago,” the mom said to us. “She was heartbroken over the fact that her boyfriend had broken up with her. But their relationship was nothing but texting! I said to her, ‘You’ve never even met that boy! How can there be any relationship to break off!’”

This doesn’t seem to me a step in the right direction. Isn’t there something wrong if technology has removed even our dating relationships to a virtual world?

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Off to England Closer apart than we’ve ever been

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Profile

profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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