Relationships are different today. Technology and connectivity have combined to change the way couples, friends, groups and even strangers interact with one another.
This digital connectivity, which is enthusiastically embraced by millions of Millennials and Generation Xers, is gaining support even among some Baby Boomers. It gives us virtually unlimited convenience of access, speed, and the immediate gratification of a quick, if not cryptic, response. What could be so bad about increased communication?
The digital generation seems content to text or tweet rather than engage in meaningful, face-to-face conversations. A middle school teen in California routinely tweets and texts more than 15,000 messages per month. Not to be outdone, another West Coast father bragged – yes, he bragged – that his daughter had more than 30,000 texts in a month, a number that sounds too far-fetched to believe. Frankly, that performance, if true, is out of my league. My thumbs do not work that fast. What else does this teenager have time for…friends, school, family?
For those who track these massive sociological shifts, there is growing concern that seems to be based on the inevitability of that pesky dictum, the Law of Unintended Consequences. Social observers are beginning to fret about how our digital connections will impact our long-term personal relationships; they see this trend as one with potentially serious ramifications for stability of this important societal pillar. They also question the implications for interactions at work and how important alliances and teamwork – not to mention an organization’s culture – over time, could be affected.
Some believe this technological onslaught contributes to the growing practice, especially among the Millennials and their immediate seniors, Generation X, of socializing in groups rather than investing in the arduous, some say painful process that can be fraught with disappointments and rejection, of finding someone with whom to engage in a one-on-one relationship as was the historical norm. After college, increasing numbers of young people entering the workforce and living independently for the first time, struggle to make those important one-on-one relationships necessary to find a committed companion, husband or wife.
It turns out that regardless of the convenience, speed and gratification of digital communication, it is next to impossible to find intimacy in 140 or less characters of a tweet, a text message, on Facebook or any other number of personal social media sites.
Relationships are important on every level – with our families, those we work with, and our friends.
The key question is not whether, but how, our increasing reliance on abbreviated digital exchanges will negatively impact those relationships.
© 2013 John Gregory Self