How technology is changing our relationships
There was a time when communicating with someone actually took time and effort. If you wanted to declare your love to someone, you had to write a letter, send a gift, or ask your special someone out. Waiting was a killer. If you gave a letter or gift, you had to wait for days before these could be received by your object of affection. Asking someone out also took time for you to get yourself ready and plan how to say it. And even the few seconds or minutes waiting for a response could send someone in spasms. Making friends was not as complicated, but it also meant taking time to go out, having meaningful conversations, or enjoying activities together. Most of all, you couldn’t hide who you are to people you interacted with. As time went by, you’d get found out for sure.
Enter the mIRC generation. Online chat groups redefined the way we do relationships. Instead of actual face-to-face interaction and the effort you make in trying to get to know someone, you could easily meet another person by clicking open a window and saying “ASL” (age, sex, location). This was already expected behaviour and wouldn’t surprise anyone in a chat room. Participants hid behind monikers like sweetserenity23 and italianman35, all meticulously thought about to garner the most clicks from other participants. Each nickname was a simulation of who they are, or more likely, what they wanted to be. While chat rooms also existed for specialized topics and meaningful collaboration, many of them were also used a virtual arena to make friends and find a partner.
Virtual reality games like Second Life took MiRC many steps further. This time, gamers took the form of customized avatars and actually lived in a virtual world where they could put up businesses, go to parties, talk to other avatars, and earn their first million. True to its name, Second Life gave a way for people to gain a virtual second life when they felt that they had none in reality. In the not-so-extreme sense, it gave players a chance to build an ideal life, or at least, a better life.
Today, people are connected by technology more than ever and communication has become even more instantaneous. Aside from instant messaging and SMS, we have a wide array of VoIP applications to choose from for both personal and business use: Skype, Google Voice, RingCentral…the options seem endless. We also have social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Unlike mIRC and Second Life, we take pleasure in coming up with “honest” profiles posted with pictures of our real faces. But there is a lot of virtualization going on too. People can recreate their lives through careful choice of status messages, photos, and other personal information that gets publicized.
It’s so easy to connect and to be connected 24/7 nowadays, but the question is, just how authentic and deep are these connections? How many hours do we spend in front of a computer screen instead of going out, grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend, and stammering an actual I love you — instead of sending virtual hugs and smileys with hearts — to someone?
Undoubtedly, we can also argue that technology has helped build relationships. But at the end of the day, you’re sure to still appreciate a friend who’d find the time and effort to meet you face to face.