Has All Social Contact Become Technological?

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With all of this focus on technology...what is happening to classic human contact?

day 314_too much typing

Photo: anitacanita from Flikr

Typing away...

While I was waiting for a bus the other day, I was asked to fill out a survey that addressed the extent to which technology plays a part in decreasing socializing with strangers. As a researcher, I couldn’t help but be incredibly distracted by the poor survey design (holding back with everything I had not to edit the survey rather than fill it out). However, as a pedestrian, I couldn’t help but think about how much socializing with strangers really has decreased since the simpler days of less technology.

I, along with many others, almost always have ear buds in so I’m listening to good music whenever I’m walking somewhere alone. I just find that music improves the quality of my day…it cheers me up. If someone isn’t listening to music, they are often texting, emailing, Facebooking, Twittering, or talking on their phone that now essentially functions as a mini-computer. Face-to-face contact with strangers or acquaintances is at an all-time low while technology-mediated contact is at an all-time high.

Dating and courtship

This got me thinking about changes in dating and courtship since all of this technology entered our lives. Prior to the advent of Facebook and Twitter, you actually had to get to know someone by talking to them, asking them what their interests were, and assessing potential compatibility face-to-face. Now, talking is replaced with typing, asking is replaced with reading, and face-to-face communication is minimized. What is this doing to the quality of the building blocks of a relationship?

Bringing people together…or pushing them apart

Technological advances have been praised for their ability to bring people together that would perhaps not normally meet. It is great for keeping in touch with a large network of “friends” who you would potentially never be in touch with without social networking sites. Facebook is a great demonstration of this.

However, in the dating world, Facebook can be used as a window into someone’s life that would not normally have been available without getting to know someone on a fairly personal level. Traditional dating scripts would have required a great deal of verbal communication to occur to find out what one may now discover in 5 minutes worth of reading a Facebook or Twitter page. Regardless of whether you think this is good or bad, we can all agree that it is certainly different.

Researchers are taking note

Facebook and other social media outlets are making dating a lot more complicated than it used to be. The changing landscape of romantic relationships isn’t going unnoticed by researchers.

In 2009, Muise and colleagues from the University of Guelph published a paper that found that increased Facebook use predicted relationship jealousy above and beyond other relationship factors. Facebook has also been linked to suspicion…and in response to suspicion women tend to over-analyze their partner’s page while men tend to avoid their partner’s page. Some health researchers in Great Britain have even proposed a link between social networking sites and an increase in cases of syphilis (come on…really?!).

The face of dating has certainly changed and will most likely continue to change as our connection to the world of social media increases. My verdict is still out in terms of whether the pros outweigh the cons…regardless…I guess its time to adjust and embrace this seemingly prominent form of communication!

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH

completed her PhD in Health Behavior and her MPH in Biostatistics, both at Indiana University. Kristen is an Assistant Professor in Health Promotion at University of Kentucky. Kristen's research focuses on sexual pleasure, sexuality in long term relationships, sexual function, and women's sexuality.
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Comments

  • http://digg.com/users/OmegaWolf Silver Fang

    I for one, enjoy technology-mediate contact more. I dislike interacting personally with people unless I know them very well. Texting, Twitter and Facebook give me the anonymity and control I desire in all my interactions.

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