“It’s clear that the Internet is being woven into people’s most important relationships.” -Lee Rainie
The internet has altered how relationships develop. All sorts of of relationships. People with common interests interact from all over the world. Online dating lets you search for your soulmate via a few parameters. Creepy fat-noming creatures can easily locate victims. I can sublet my apartment on Craigslist and get some furniture on Freecycle.
I selected a Maid Of Honor dress last week via GChat, sending pics of me trying it on from five thousand miles away. I still talk to my best friend every day, despite not living within a thousand miles of each other for years. My brother repeatedly kicks my ass in Mario Kart, despite the ocean between us. I have close friends I’ve never met. Hell, you can fall in love without ever touching.
Are these relationships less meaningful because they spend most of their time trapped in an IM box? Would my brother’s victory be anymore sweet if we were in the same room? Would those friendships be any stronger if we had coffee regularly?
I don’t think so. Sure, face to face (F2F for all you teens reading this) interactions have their perks. Real sex beats phone sex. It’s harder to be duped by a fat-eating demon if you meet him at a bookstore. You have no awesome tales of drunken adventures with your best friends unless you can actually be in a bar together.
However, with Twitter, I can keep updated on my friends’ days. I get to see photos of vacations and weddings on Facebook. I can constantly be in touch with text, IM, phone, and video chat. I get recipes from Australia. I discuss feminism and atheism with people in Canada and Chicago. My life is enriched by relationships I wouldn’t otherwise have, people who I wouldn’t otherwise know, and perspectives I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
So, no, crazy alarmists, the internet isn’t ruining human interaction. We aren’t all looking at a future like Sandra Bullock in The Net. All the Japanese sex robots in the world won’t make up for the real thing.
But, man, Skype is pretty great.