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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Technology and Human Relationships

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend about three hours of education week at BYU. It was really awesome; there were amazing and valuable insights that are helping my family (mostly by me doing things differently, and better) that I gained during that short time.

One teacher told a story about his son, who was a freshman in high school, and what happened when he got his first cell phone. The son did well the first month, but the second month he used WAY too many texts. Instead of giving him a rule, saying "You need to not use more than this many", the father gave him a principle: texting is for information, not relationships. It took a couple of months for the son to really apply the principle (during which time, and after a warning, the dad took away the phone for a week), but soon the son was able to evaluate his own use of the phone and make more responsible decisions about it.

Side note: I had one friend point out that for her teenage daughter, since the daughter and all her friends have now split apart to attend different schools, texting is the way that they can maintain their friendships. I think that there is great validity to this point.

I've thought a lot about the idea that some of the technology we have is for information, not relationships. To me, this highlights the greatest weakness of "social media": I can put information out there, but I"m not sure who is receiving it or how they are reacting. The connection - that relationship building part of the experience - is missing.

There are quite a few blogs that I really love reading. I am really happy that I am now writing my own blog. (For anyone who reads this on facebook, contact me for the address!) But in both the reading and the writing, I find myself uncertain: Am I connecting with you, my readers? How do you feel about what I am writing? What is your reaction? To some extent, these connections can be made through comments... but that is really like having a conversation in a large room full of people, many of whom you may not even know are there. Depth of conversation and shared experience are simply not the same in this context.

And so, I am beginning to conclude that I want something slightly different. I absolutely still want to read blogs, and I definitely want to keep writing my own; but I want something more than that. I want to email friends, or call them, to reply to what they have posted. Rather than just internet stalking people by reading and never replying (which, admittedly, has been my preference for many years - and  there are some great reasons to do this!), I want to have dialogue with those whose experiences I am exploring through their writing. When I see them again, I don't want to have that awkward feeling when they tell me what's been going on in their life, and I know all about it but they don't know I know all about it.... Instead, I want them to know that I know at least a little of how it's going, I've been following along in their adventures, and I understand a little of what they've been going through or I've celebrated with them or I once had a similar experience or I hope to have that experience someday... When I see them, I want to already have actively been building our relationship, so that our friendship is strong and we can move forward in that shared communication, rather than the one-way comments that are sent off into cyberspace in both directions, and yet the connection is never made.

What do you think? Is anyone reading this? Have you contemplated this at all, and what have you concluded? I welcome comments, emails, phone calls, in-person conversations, and any other means of communication you want to share with me to truly converse, and to maintain and build our relationship.

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