Keeping it face-to-face

Kerstin Gupilan

Modern technology is amazing. It’s helped to save lives, win wars and helped major networks choose the next biggest talent in this country. But the main use for technology that we have all come to embrace and rely on is something so medieval and so commonplace that I wonder if it’s more harmful than beneficial. Communication.

The idea that human connection and interaction are disappearing was brought back to my attention during a recent adventure to the busy tourist-crowded streets of Hollywood. While riding the numerous flights of escalators of the Hollywood-Highland center my attention was caught by a huge contraption pushed up against a wall on the third floor.  I soon realized it was a giant Best Buy vending machine. Yes, a vending machine that sells iPods, flash drives and even Nintedo DS’s does exist.

This large, and rather daunting, machine made me question what was happening to good ol’ fashioned face-to-face human interaction. Sure, innovations like buying electronics while on the go is convenient, and maybe I’m just lost in the nostalgia of traditional shopping, but really it’s as if there is no line that can’t be crossed anymore.

The line no longer exists when it comes to the communication between two people. Conversations can now last for entire days through text messages and no one has to utter a single word, to the other person at least. And sadly, we as a modern society are vastly accepting of this. Convenience has blinded us from its potential harm.

With all these advances in the way we communicate (and shop), I’m left to wonder the true role technology plays in relationships.

Most of us can recall a time uncomplicated by e-mails, text messages, online social networking and any other modern outlet we’ve taken advantage of over the last decade. Now, instead of going straight to calling a person and having an actual dialogue with them, many of us abuse the semi-anonymity that comes along with conversations based in text.

I still remember hand-writing letters back in high school and having a friend “deliver” them to the object of my affection. Not much compared to the feeling of getting a letter back, usually folding intricately in the form of a heart or arrow. I will admit that I still have many of these letters tucked away in a box that I haven’t opened in years, they’ve become more substantial keepsakes than the text on my iPhone’s screen, and somewhat special.

Alright, so I’ve been going on about how using modern technology may not be the best way to communicate with a person, but in all honesty I’ve used it just as much as anybody else has. Again, the anonymity really does offer comfort when it comes to pursuing a new romantic interest.  We can spend a little bit of time thinking about the perfect thing to say before actually responding to a text message or e-mail.

But to rely so heavily on these methods is dangerous, because once we come face-to-face with this person the pressure is on to be that same witty person that our texts portray us as.  And we must do this at an instances notice; in a way, we lose a little piece of ourselves. We filter what we want to say instinctively, trying to  think of the funniest, cattiest, just utterly perfect response.

In “real” life, there is no actual self-editing, once the words are said there’s really no taking it back. With text there’s always the option to not hit the send button. Let’s not forget that plain text offers no indication of real emotion or expression, something I’ve come to loathe. Without the occasional emoticon (some that I still cannot decipher), sarcasm, anger and even joy gets lost in translation.

Social networking is another blessing and curse when it comes to relationships. Only these are all packeaged in a convenient, easily-accesible website. On the one hand, we can keep track of our current crush or interest, and still on the other hand this is also its downfall. I personally have fallen victim to this double-edged sword and had to, on more than one occasion, hide someone from my Facebook newsfeed.  I followed the classic saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” hoping that I would not become some crazy-obssessed Facebook stalker. Thankfully, I never did.

I think the problem is the accesibility to the other person that we get through these types of sites, it makes it difficult to get to know a true person’s personality. We begin to judge them on how they talk to their friends, what they post as status updates and, of course, the groups and pages they are interested. We are then left with the false sense that a connection has been made. It’s like reading celebrity gossip magazines, just because we know Johnny Depp’s favorite ice cream or shoesize, doesn’t mean we are meant to be together.

The bottom line is, technological advances are great, it means we’re progressing as a species. But still, the overuse of texting and social networking sites really is not the most effective way to pursue/start/continue a realtionship. Sooner or later, we’re gonna have to come face-to-face with the person, and hiding behind our cell phone is not an option.