Closer apart than we’ve ever been

June 5, 2006 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

While my uncle was here visiting, we got to talking about the merits vs. the disadvantages of technology. I defended my use of my “gadgets” by telling Uncle Tom that technology helps me connect with people.

Half of my friends, I said, are people that I’ve met online, through things like blogging or online forums. The internet is my way of making and maintaining friendships, and there’s a whole community online that I couldn’t ever enter without technology.

Uncle Tom didn’t buy it.

“Maybe,” he said, shaking his head just a little, “but how much does it really bring people together? Technology makes us communicate through masks. And besides, we get so caught up in our virtual communities that we ignore the real people all around us. Does that qualify as bringing us together, or does it just separate us?”

Well, he unfortunately has a point.

In my own family, I recall some not-so-infrequent evenings when we have all four been home “together,” but with each one of us in a different room of the house on a separate computer. And though it doesn’t happen very frequently, there has been more than one occasion when our family is in the car together and three of the four of us are on separate cell phone calls.

Speaking about the topic of cell phones in particular, Leopoldina Fortunati (quoted in Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, the book I mentioned in my last post) says the following:

“What we do…is divert attention from interpersonal communication in favour of a virtual conversation over a distance…. We make our flesh and blood interlocutor helpless while we talk into the mobile and give the person at the other end more importance than the person in front of us.”

There is certainly a sense in which technology does draw people together, but considerations like these make me wonder whether we’ve really gained anything in the way of connectedness when all is said and done. Technology has made us so continuously connected to everybody that we’re only ever half connected to anybody. Are we closer apart than we’ve ever been?

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Dating, virtually Paring back – in an extreme sort of way

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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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