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Are Cyber Friends Real?

Social Circle Online Friend Network

Today, in our local online news source we have an article which claims that our new cyber technology is adversely affecting our friendships and which concludes that today, some people have fewer friends.

Human contact is a cyber failing

The article claims that the real culprit is technology.

I disagree. Whilst in some respects, I do think that technology misused can cause friendship problems for people, I think that the real reasons for the increased isolation of some people are very different.

I have been an avid user of new technology for many years and have carefully studied its impact both on myself and others, from a human relationship perspective.

There are many ways in which modern technology is being used to enhance relationships and examples include:

1) Keeping in touch more regularly and more often – these days it is so much easier to keep in contact with others. Regular communication is one of the factors which can enhance relationships greatly.

2) The types/methods of contact are more varied today, and these can enrich relationships. One less obvious example is where a young person on a world trip can regularly create a photo blog documenting their experiences and travels. Parents, family members and others can therefore feel much more involved in the young person’s life.

3) Opportunities to meet other people – the Internet has many good examples of different ways we can network and interact with others for a variety of reasons. It is very easy to seek people of like mind, with whom we are likely to have a rapport. Rapport is one of the key relationship drivers.

4) Self acceptance – as a counselor I have at times used the Internet to prove to people that others are just like them. This can be particularly liberating to some people. I have also noticed that the Internet has fostered a gradual coming out of different types of personality/preference groups.

5) As a former Private Investigator, modern technology, and in particular the Internet, has helped me to locate missing family members or friends, leading to many happy reunions.

6) I met some lovely ladies online via Internet dating – this was back in the days when there was still a stigma about Internet dating and a fair bit of “media hysteria” about the subject. Fortunately for me, none turned out to be an axe murderer.

7) Recently I read an interesting article, which detailed how a young woman somewhere in Asia was saved by people online – most of them strangers – when she attempted to commit suicide. Her attempt was genuine, so the actions of these people were extremely important – she would have died without their intervention.

There are many other ways in which modern technology enhances and improves relationships & intimacy, however I want to end by making the simple point that like anything, technology can be misused, and we all have both an opportunity, and a responsibility, to use it correctly. With a positive mind set, we will find many ways in which technology can improve our relationships.

Media, or other hysteria is unhelpful and counter productive, and among other things, encourages the blame mentality. 2008 has arrived, the technology is here, the technology is changing the world dramatically – let’s focus on using it positively and for good.

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