I saw a conversation online about technology causing depersonalization in society. I jotted down some thoughts.
“The best time to come pay me a visit is by telephone.” – my grandpa, probably
“A phone call is just a way to avoid the intimacy that you only find on the wagon train together.” – My great grandpa, maybe.
“What’s a telephone?” – My great, great grandpa.
In my opinion, the depth and intimacy of relationships is ultimately up to the people involved and their willingness to invest and prioritize people. A relationship will be as important as the people make it. Email, text messages, instant messaging, Skype, phone calls, letters, Facebook, hand written notes… all of these play whatever role the people using them assign them. In many cases they will be tools of avoidance. In others they will be the very thing that cultivates depth.
Surely when the telephone became widely used there were people for whom it became the way to permanently cement the distance between them and others. And for others, it became a sweet magic that gave them an even shorter path to their loved ones.
I’d venture to say that if we didn’t have airplanes, trains, ships, and cars — we’d possibly have very intimate relationships with the smaller pool of people available to our daily life. Of course, the exact opposite could also be true.
In the end, I’d rather have the ability to traverse my city, state, nation, and planet. But either way, none of these innovations make my relationships more personal and meaningful without my doing something about it.