Is Online Technology Creating Impersonal Relationships?
I must confess…I am turning into an online tech junkie. The irony is that I really don’t know that much about online technology (No, really…some of your don’t believe this, but it’s true.). Beyond the basics of navigating through the internet, working with some software, and being patient enough (sometimes) to read information on google searches, I couldn’t tell much you about technology. I know very little about how to work with plug-ins, html coding, firewalls, etc. I think I know just enough, with the help of Apple :), to fool some…haha!
Online web realities like social networking, plug-ins, streaming, twittering, and blogging are still VERY new to me. In fact, I have only been blogging here for only about a year now (My first anniversary as a blogger is coming up next week!). I’m am definitely a tech infant! Now I regret that I waited so long.
You see, one of my fears that prevented me from jumping on board earlier with online technology (beyond the thought of learning how to navigate in a whole new world of interaction), was actually my commitment to remain “personal” with people (a high value of mine). I use to think that the online community of users would take away the personal nature of face to face interaction.
I was recently reminded of how I use to think like this during my participation at Church Tech Camp in the Los Angeles area. A person (who ironically happen to be online) was concerned that technology (in this case, online techology) had the potential of creating and facilitating impersonal relationships. The implied concern here is that the online world would create superficial relationships, minimize the beauty of personal contact, or God forbid, dehumanize those we interact with online to merely virtual “contacts” or commodities for our own benefit.
There is no doubt that we are all capable of making the online world a place for fueling superficial relationships, impersonal connections, and even a venue to devalue other human beings. In fact, this happens everyday on the internet. Nevertheless, I don’t think the problem is online technology.
The issues of superficiality, impersonal interaction, or dehumanization, are rooted in the person and not the techonlogy a person uses. Technology is by nature a neutral tool that may be used for “good or evil” (Remember, it has no feelings, motives, or a soul…I know, this is blasphemous for some techies.). The problem is not the technology, but rather, the nature of humanity exemplied in our manipulative egos.
The truth of the matter is that I am fully capable (and have done so in the past) of developing impersonal relationships in person as much as I do online. I know I carry the capacity (and track record…sad) to devalue other human beings and superficially care for things from a distance even though I come physically in contact with a “cause” in person (e.g., similar to the distant compassion expressed in many who commit to causes on facebook yet don’t intentionally change anything in their lives to support a cause). You see, the problem is us and NOT the internet. Can the internet add to our negative tendencies? Of course…but so can a number of other things in the “real” world.
If used properly (whatever your criteria may be), I believe that online technology could actually deepen the relationships between people. I’m sure all of you have benefitted at some level, as it relates to relationships, because of the internet (e.g., finding an old friend, receiving an encouraging wall post, seeing an update video/photo of someone you love, creating new friendship online, keeping up with status updates among friends, etc.). I personally would not have the depth of relationship with many in life if it were not for the internet.
I think the benefits of online technology far out weighs the potential risk or non-action. The focus of concern should not be the internet, but rather, our hearts.
There you go…be free…use online technology…just don’t forget your humanity.