Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My digital heart

Obviously, the way we interact with each other is changing as technology changes. When was the last time you sent an actual written letter to somebody? Technology is also changing the way we relate romantically with others. (Granted, the way things are changing isn't all technological. When was the last time you used the word "courting"?)

In a new book, The Breakup 2.0, reviewed here, Ilana Gershon makes the case that technology is making relationships more traditional in some ways. Reviewer Adam Kirsch writes,
[T]he truth, as Gershon shows, is that in important ways all these new media are actually making college-age love affairs more traditional -- that is, more governed by strict etiquette, and more accountable to the judgments of peers.
While that may be partially true, I think that the more important factor is the way that information now spreads, bringing information quickly to so many people. Our every move is broadcast to our peers, but I don't know if that is a good thing; we stop being ourselves and make decisions partly on what our friends will think and not as fully on what the significant other will think. Technology changes the degrees by which we are accountable to others.

It's harder to break up quietly these days, as I've encountered personally. We, as a people, like to control the reactions to our own emotional suffering, which I think is a fair right, but that is co-opted by our new desire to share everything with everyone. Personally, I decided not to acknowledge my most recent relationship via facebook, choosing to insulate myself against future pain regardless of whatever lack of dedication to the relationship this showed. (Ultimately, I don't know if this was the right decision.)

I think technology has also made us more callous in our relationships. That most recent relationship ended, more or less, via an email. Call me old or a traditionalist, but I wasn't too pleased by that communication choice. (And at least I didn't have to broadcast the breakup on facebook.)

Most of us have probably seen that Sprint commercial where a woman breaks up, via text, with a man sitting directly across from her. Even in this technology driven world, how many of us would side with the woman in this video, even if her actions weren't so gleefully over the top?

Perhaps I should be happy about this digital shift in relationships. I'm better off at portraying myself through my cultivated online persona than I am in person, as several recent strikeouts at the bar have shown. But I also tend to use technology to insulate myself; every action is plotted and thought out, which is different from my face-to-face, rant-inclined, overly-reactionary nature. This emotional distancing makes my digitally portrayed self somewhat less real, or less authentic, than the physical me. And I, personally, need my relationships to be real.

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