Wednesday, May 5, 2010
How Technology Impacts Personal Relationships
Anyone who knows a young adult realizes that technology is an important aspect of that young adult's life. Recently I had a humorous discussion on Facebook with a young adult friend of mine. He had recently updated his "relationship status" and had a new girlfriend. But he had not yet listed the young lady's name on Facebook because she had not yet "accepted" the relationship change on Facebook. I was giving him a friendly ribbing about how he couldn't even get a girlfriend without Facebook. He thought it was funny, but agreed that technology has definitely changed how personal relationships are created, perceived, and shared with others.
But it is not just young adults' relationships that have been changed by technology. I must admit that my wife and I often "talk" online throughout the day, or send each other text messages, or use some other means of technological communication. It keeps us connected to each other during the day though we are physically on opposite ends of the city in which we live.
I also communicate to my three young adult children through technology. The other day my wife had prepared a fine dinner and when it came time to "call" them for dinner, I sent them a text message even though they were just in the other room. Wow, technology really has become a part of our lives!
As a pastor who is concerned about helping the next generation discover a meaningful faith in Christ, I use technology a lot in my ministry. It helps me connect with a larger number of young adults than I could do in person. It is also provides a "safe" way for young adults to ask me questions or discuss things with me that might be uncomfortable in a face to face conversation. These are good aspects of using technology in our personal relationships.
But there is an inherent difficulty in using too much technology in our personal relationships. The danger of all of this technological communication is that we can use it as a way to isolate ourselves from actual interaction from others. We are designed by God to need each other, especially in times of difficulty or stress. There are times when we need a hug, and a cute symbol for a hug in a text message just won't do. There is something about a firm handshake or a pat on the shoulder that still means something important to us that just can't be communicated through technology.
There is also the issue of honesty. When people only connect through technology, it is easy to bend the truth and get away with it. After all, if we have never met the person we are talking to, we don't know if what is said is even true. Even if we have met the person, but only on rare occasions, there is much less accountability in a face to face relationship. People say and do things on a computer screen or cell phone that they would not do in person. This is another reason why we need to actually spend time with each other in face to face encounters. It keeps us honest and more authentic in what we say and do.
Technology is a great tool. It can be used to help us communicate with others. It can give us a sense of safety when we need to discuss complicated issues. But no amount of technology can replace the value of human interaction. We must learn to use technology as an effective tool, but resist the temptation to use it in unhealthy ways.