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The Effect of Digital Media on Interpersonal Relationships

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By tressel
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A Comparison of Traditional and Digital Relationships in Society
According to the US Census Bureau, the census conducted in 2011 showed that 75.6 percent of all US households owned at least one or more computers, compared to the 1984 census statistic of 8.2 percent when every household was asked for the first time about computer ownership. These same facts are repeated when analyzing internet access. In the 2011 census 71.7 percent of all US households maintain an internet access account unlike the 18 percent of the 1997 census. With all the computer and internet usage around the world it creates changes to the traditional interpersonal relationships by turning them into a digital manifested relationship. Prior to the early 1900s almost all relationships were of a traditional fundamentalist thinking. Then during the industrial revolution with the invention of the telegraph and railroads relationships could grow farther apart but still remain in contact due to the distances and time required. The contact would still have to be choreographed to remain in contact. As technology sped up with the invention of the telephone and the internet so did the aspect of interpersonal relationships. What was limited one day was free the next with the ability to be able to keep people inter connected. Traditional relationships are constantly being adapted by technology and human needs, allowing for them to keep pace and adapt to the digital world.
Basically in a traditional relationship requires 2 or more people to be involved together which typically remain in close proximity or contact to one another for emotional support, business support or a sense of community. These relationships have constraints and cannot expand, due to a lack of technology that allows for greater distance and time that is required to maintain the relationship. During World War II when Soldiers deployed to war they would have to write letters to convey information and remain in contact with their loved ones. Usually these letters required a great amount of time, usually consisting of weeks to months to go from the hand of the Soldier to their intended recipient. Then there would be the response letter sent requiring a similar amount of time to get to the intended Soldier. The letters sometimes could convey emotion but usually just stated facts of what was happening at that exact moment or to plan future events. Since there was such a great distance and time, the relationship would have to endure hardship of a long waiting period with little or no support for one another at either end. Due to the delays suffered, most interpersonal relationships grew full of love and understanding for one another, sometimes referring to the statement “Distance makes the heart grow fond.”
When referring to Digital interpersonal relationships, it is often thought of as utilizing a social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, social dating sites or even just plain email to find, connect or keep updated of other people’s activities. Most digital relationships using this type of media usually tend to be more superficial and less substantial then a traditional relationship. People search for and connect with people from their past, present and future but still remain only superficially in contact with one another. Regarding the online dating sites some information is passed that focuses on the similar interests of the individuals, but in fact sometimes the intent is lost. Some people are online predators or Cyber Stalkers and will focus on the interests of their intended target. This will allow for them to gain access to the individual. Other times the relationship travels from the digital realm into the traditional interpersonal relationship. An example of this was an old friend of mine after a few years’ separation and lack of contact found me through a social media site. We started rekindling our old friendship which eventually turned romantic and now have been together for four years. This is how relationships go from a digital relationship using a social media site and manifest themselves as a traditional relationship.
A typical comparison between a digital interpersonal relationship and a traditional interpersonal relationship references the amount of people that can remain in contact with one another. This is when referring to a digital relationship one person has the ability to remain in contact with many people or many people to the one person that is provided by the social media and internet sites compared to the face to face limitation of the traditional relationship. When remaining in contact face to face relationships build strong bonds and trust resulting in a meaningful, long lasting relationship in contrast to connecting with a vast portion of people where it is almost impossible to form a strong bond with one another.
Due to the distance and the medium by which the digital society connects it creates one of the most pronounced downfalls of a digital relationship, the lack of emotional support needed by an individual. When someone writes or publishes something digitally, it usually does not convey the exact emotional context meant from the writer. A perfect example of this is the Facebook friend collector who has 5000 friends but none of any true value. So if a relationship lacks the emotional support it requires the relationship cannot become something of substance.
In a digital society there is also the facet of anonymity or the ability to affect others without being known. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage due to the outcome. A positive side is the ability to sign a petition or make a comment in relative security of oneself without others seeking to harm the individual. The negative side of this it the ability to remain anonymous yet conduct acts of cyber bullying, cyber stalking or cyber harassing. The anonymity provided by a digital relationship allows people to act almost free of consequences regardless of harm they inflict or pain they cause others. While on the other hand the traditional society does not have very much anonymity, what you see is what you get.
A downfall of the digital society is the lack of regulating the truth. There is no honesty police that patrol the web looking those that over embellish themselves. You cannot tell if someone is telling the truth about themselves even if they have pictures. The pictures could be of someone else entirely or touched up using Adobe Photoshop. A possible example of this is a fictional movie called “Surrogates” where society has stopped interacting with one another personally instead they have an Avatar or robot they inhabit mentally. The Avatar can be of any shape, size, age or gender, while the real person is old and overweight lying in bed. Without truth there is only manipulation.
In a traditional interpersonal relationship it can be used for public or private usage. It is maintained by the individuals that are in the relationship. In a digital relationship most of the information is in a public forum and accessible by everyone. One of the many sayings that are stated regarding privacy and people’s online personas is that “If you don’t want everyone to know about your life or your activities then don’t put them on the internet.” Once something is placed on the internet it has the possibility to remain there forever. A second problem that arises from placing your private information on the internet is created by allowing others to commit identity theft or some online resources or media sites might even be selling your private information. The choice is solely on the individuals though if they want to make their information public or private.
Society is in a constant update of information from loved ones and overwhelmed by businesses trying to sell their newest products. In today’s society everyone dwells in a realm full of streaming data available at the touch of a keyboard, returning your desired request like lightning from around the globe, compared to the slower traditional relationships of the past. Traditional relationships have always been around since we created societies. They have also been changing since the invention of language, written or spoken. The greatest leaps and bounds in society have happened in the last century since industrial revolution, beginning with the invention of the telegraph, railroads and telephones culminating in the digital network we have today. When comparing the slow emotional interaction of traditional relationships of the past, people in today’s society are connected less empathically around the world but in a twenty four hour digital network.
In conclusion since all traditional relationships adapt to their environment, technology and society then the truth is that it creates a new traditional relationship that are really a hybrid form of relationship able to use digital media for inter connection between people. When we Facebook or Google plus with people that we are having a full and meaningful relationship with, it allows for us to remain in contact over greater distances and time. While most digital relationships remain in the digital society, they tend to be limited by the amount of contact we allow between others.…...

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