Academic journal article Education

The Influence of Technology on the Initiation of Interpersonal Relationships (1)

Academic journal article Education

The Influence of Technology on the Initiation of Interpersonal Relationships (1)

Article excerpt


The world has witnessed a steady increase in the advent, adoption, and widespread use of new and varied technologies. With this proliferation of technology, scholars and lay people alike are beginning to ask the question, "How does advancing technologies impact interpersonal relationships?" This paper explores this concern by examining the following three areas. First, brief consideration is given to technology and its influence on social life. Second, the influence of media on interpersonal relationships is explored. Finally, the implications of computer-mediated interaction for relationship development are reviewed.


Ever since the discovery of the first tool, people have seen these tools, machines, technological advances as positive and desirable (the wheel, printing press, telephone, airplane, TV, satellite, micro wave, & PC, just to name a few). They have helped to bring about what McLuhan (1975) has termed the "Global Village." The world is becoming continually smaller. However, as the distance between cultures and countries shrink, the distance between interpersonal interactants appears to be expanding. Paradoxically, the closer we get, the further apart we appear to be. As this paper argues, technology (in many ways a positive influence on quality of life), in part, is responsible for this increasing social/interpersonal distance.

Tools are intended to make one's work easier. However, the increased ease and time saved, afford people the opportunity to become less interdependent and more autonomous and self-reliant. For example, where once women gathered at the water's edge to do the laundry in social groups outside the home; men and women now go to the laundry room and turn on the washing machine, quickly returning to the comfort of the living room, kitchen, or den. The tools that were originally designed to aid in the execution of some activity have come to replace that activity. Human input goes from maximum to almost nonexistent. The telephone permits ordering food to be delivered to our front door, cable access provides the convenience of ordering recent-release movies for home viewing, Internet availability permits shopping for "almost anything" on-line. A consumer can take advantage of all of these services and never leave the comfort and isolation of home.

Furthermore, all of this increased social isolation is encouraged and validated. The AT&T slogan, "Reach out and touch someone," encapsulates the ideology being spread by the Techno Barons like Bell, Microsoft, Apple, Time-Warner, etc. The enthymematic force of this slogan advances the position that mediated contact, virtual interaction, and Computer-Mediated-Communication (CMC) (Walther & Tidwell, 1996) are synonymous to face-to-face communication. That is to say, touching someone in an emotional sense is the same as, or equivalent to, physically touching someone. Hence, the paradox; one can be closer because some form of contact (i.e., CMC) is experienced and further apart because that contact serves to create a less accurate representation of the participants and their messages. The absence of the characteristics associated with face-to-face communication can result in a loss of fidelity and an increase in the psychological distance between interactants.

In addition, the desire for this new technology places a heavier financial burden on the necessary income for the interpersonal unit (i.e., the family). Because of personal or economic reasons, dual income families have become the norm. According to Galvin and Brommel (2000)," [f]rom 1970-1990, the number of working married women with children under age 6 increased from 49 to 58 percent" (p. 14). These authors also report, that in families with children 6 to 17, 73 percent of the women are employed. Though the cause for these dual income families cannot be attributed directly to the acquisition, use, or presence of technology, the dual income family gives rise to the "latchkey children" phenomenon, children returning from school before either parent has return from work. …

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