Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Post 5: Technology & Interpersonal Relationships


New communication technologies have redefined interpersonal relationships. What is the impact of such technologies (e.g., cell phones, Facebook, Skype, twitter, match.com, etc.) on your social ties? For this posting, please describe some of the effects, either positive or negative, that you or someone you know have experienced.

If you don’t have any direct observations, please comments on the video The Social Web of Things (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5AuzQXBsG4).  

17 comments:

Rebecca Peterson said...

I'm sure that all of the scenarios in the video clip will be realized some day. Where did I read that computers will be more intelligent than humans by 2025 or something (Bujeja?) Kind of sad that the guy chose the machines over a human but I don't know of any person or child who is missing out on personal contacts in order to spend hours on the computer. Such people probably exist but I haven't encountered anyone yet.

On a personal level I think social media are great for keeping us connected with close friends and family. I can Skype with my kids in LA and NY and our former foreign exchange student in Spain and actually see their faces-love that. I also thought it was great that I could keep in touch with my school-aged kids 24/7 via cell phone.(I know some parents use a GPS tracker so they actually see where the phone/child are at all times). When I was growing up my parents didn't know exactly where I was and I loved the freedom, but I don't think my kids knew any better because they grew up in the age of the cell phone. One negative of constant connectivity is that my students send me an email at 10 pm the night before an assignment is due and expect me to answer their questions ASAP, or my son sent me a text last week saying "answer your phone!" when I was in class. Sometimes the demand for my attention is bothersome. About dating: I don't see a problem with finding people with similar interests via dating web sites, as long as you actually meet the person asap.

One other negative of social media, on a personal level, is that people who share every minute detail of their lives and thoughts really annoy me. I do not have a Facebook account but use my husband's to keep in touch with relatives and friends who've moved away. I can't stand the way people my age post dumb quotes and cutesy pictures of cats, tell 500 people they are off to the gym, or take pictures of the food they make (my absolute pet peeve). But I think social media will probably change our culture to one where people are expected to share their every move and thought every waking moment of the day...hope I'm not around any more!

Sarah Wiley said...

Without communication technologies I wouldn’t have kept in touch with friends and host families overseas, have an virtual internship with Jakarta, or be able to work from home. I love that I can still touch base with friends when I can’t physically be there. It does give me a sense of closeness to them. With work, it is nice to feel that I can work from home or from the office. Google Chat + is a very useful tool.

Like Rebecca mentioned, I too feel constantly feel plugged in and have to be available at all times. If you turn off your phone without updating everyone of your whereabouts (“going to the movies with so-and-so”) then the minute that you turn the phone back on people are upset that they didn’t have an immediate response. I would say it is symptomatic of our generation that we are not only impatient but we expect everything NOW. Immediacy is paramount.

I also agree Rebecca about knowing the minutiae of people’s lives on Facebook or Twitter. There are things that people have posted about their health issues, family problems, or choice in tennis shoes that I just didn’t need to know. I think there is also something to be said now about people posting political commentary. I have very few friends where I knew their political leanings prior to Facebook posts. After knowing (especially if they lean away from my own political views), it does make the relationship a little weird. Whatever happened to the days where people didn’t discuss politics, religion, or money? Is this an erosion of manners (like we were talking in class about students walking around with ear buds or on the phone)?

Amber Knutson said...

As a middle schooler and high schooler, I spent much of my time on computer games and chat rooms, preferring to spend time in cyberspace with people that I didn't know rather than hanging out with my real life friends from middle school and high school. After I had my own computer, I spent even more time online in chat houses. Interestingly enough, my brother and I spent hours hanging out "together" in a chatroom. As soon as I went to college, I spent hours connecting to people through MSN messenger, yahoo messenger, and aol. To be the "cool" kid on campus, you needed ALL of them. When facebook started and SDSU finally have .edu email addresses, I started connecting with high school friends that I'd lost touch with. And then, after college, I found Secondlife. This was a game that I fell in love with as soon as I signed up. It was free, it was easy to access and run, and it let me create my own avatar who could do anything that I wanted her to do. I became invested in my secondlife character, I spent more hours playing than I did not. Although I had fun throughout the time spent on Secondlife, I do see it now as a huge negative effect of computers. Not just the internet or the game, but of the computer itself. Having the technology to create something that takes days and weeks out of your life, without giving you anything tangible or emotional in return, can leave you feeling pretty gutted.
Although my time online sounds bleak, it wasn’t all terrible. The positive effects of my computer usage are my relationships with high school friends that I didn’t keep connections with after school finished and my ease of finding things online, which helps me immensely when it comes to research for class or work. When my sister moved to Utah, I began skyping with her to connect with her “in person” and this Christmas, I hope to purchase a game for my brother that we can play together over a webcam. In the wrong hands anything can be bad; people can disconnect while connecting. Yet, with the right wants – to further strengthen relationships – technology can be a major boon.
When watching the video online, I started thinking about how scary technology may become, which is weird, because I’ve been pleading my father since I was ten to help me create a futuristic room that could talk to me – to no avail. Now, as a more mature person, I watched that video and cringed. Would I want to have my floor talk to me? Would I want to think that my stove was sad because I didn’t make dinner? As a person that already personifies inanimate objects, the future where my computer talks back to me or yells at me for not unplugging it when the battery is full – or when it gets sad because I haven’t used it in a while – is when I become afraid. And then Terminator becomes a reality.

Sicong Zhao said...

For us, the most famous social network service software should be QQ, Tecent. The company was founded 1998, and has grown into China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, whose number of active users is 711.7 million.
For Chinese people nowadays, a QQ account number is like another cellphone number. Ones without a QQ number could be labeled as weirdo because basically everyone has one of them and everybody seemed to use it a lot on a daily basis. And of course, there are both beneficial and harmful aspects for this.
1 Beneficial part: Take me as example, I’m studying abroad by now, it’s hard to see any of my relatives or friends in person but only to communicate with them through certain channels. QQ therefore, is my first choice because all of my friends and families have an QQ account, which saves a lot of trouble because not everyone has a Skype or Google talk account. I think SNS sites or software is all about user groups, because there would simply be no one to communicate due to the lack of friends or even acquaintances. So in general, QQ did a good job here because there is enough users to link a huge net of social relationship. If we see it from the view of innovation theory, those who has a Facebook account in China are seen as the early adopters or even innovators, but those who hasn’t a QQ account could be seen as laggards, because QQ is not an innovation anymore, just like the Facebook is no long an innovation for Americans.
2 Harmful part: Just like the other SNS software, QQ has some common negative effects. For example, the people who used to talk face-to-face now prefer to talk through QQ because it’s more convenient, which leads to a result of distance. Although one would think they’re getting socialized, and dipped into the satisfied feeling of virtual reality. Some of them can even chat with multiple persons at the same time. But, accordingly, too much time is wasted on online chat instead of getting real socialized with people. There is this common sense among Chinese teenagers nowadays, which is that those who frequently change their status, immediately reply comments, or always sharing things, are “losers” in real life because apparently, they got nothing else to do but just always surfing online. In conclusion, the frequency to which one spends on SNS sites is opposite to one’s popularity.
Secondly, QQ has some implant software as which we called the “smuggler software”. It may occupy a considerable amount of your RAM and make your computer processing relatively slow. Even more, it will come up with all sorts of entertainment applications to make you chat and play at the same time. For now, a new type of voice chat called “micro-message” has been developed. The better the software is, the more time you spend on it is expected, and finally, the less you get some real social activity.
So basically, QQ is seen as unshakable in the near future, because a 711million user group is ireplaceble. A funny phenomenon has taken place in China’s society, as QQ is not just a channel to communicate anymore, the QQ software and applications itself has been part of content of communication, or even the main part. I bet the Facebook has the same phenomenon as well.
So, I think it’s worth thinking that if a means to reach certain end has became a certain end to reach, will there be more means take place to reach a former means, (which now has became an end) and eventually lead to a result that we get further and further away from the social reality?

Mary Pei said...

I have been paying attention to online dating which has become popular and common for recent years. I would like to share with you an essay I wrote studying phenomenon of online dating. It is a long essay so some paragraphs will be cut.

Mary Pei said...

If you are a single Asian who lives in the United States, you may have a good chance to marry someone outside your racial group. Asian-Americans have one of the highest interracial marriage rates in the country. A recent analysis conducted by the Pew Research shows that Hispanics and Asians remained the most likely to marry someone of a different race as in previous decades. However, according the same study, the percentage of interracial marriages for Asian-American dropped by nearly 10% percent from 2008 to 2010. Though the rates of interracial marriages have climbed to all time high - about 15% of new marriages in the U.S. in 2010, more and more Asian-American tend to marry someone from their own ethic group.

A recent article posted on New York Times indicated that part of the reason more Asian-American choose to marry someone with same background may be attributed to the large increase in Asian immigrants, which gives young Asian-American many more options to look for partners. This makes sense; an increasing immigration guaranteed the number of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes to expand the marriage pool. However, the rising online dating may have an impact on the rates of interracial marriage for Asian-Americans as well.

I have paid attention to interracial marriages for Asian-Americans since the first day I arrived in the United States. Part of the reason is that I have a large group of Asian-American friends who married someone of anther race. My friend Sylvia, a Chinese immigrant married to a white man, lived in a Deep South small town for 15 years. She told me that she had to end up with someone not Chinese because there were only few immigrants in her neighborhood back to 15 years ago. “I have no other options,” She said, “unless I move to a big city with a large Chinese population.”

But today, the prevalence of online dating can change this phenomenon. Online dating provides chances for people to meet someone not limited by geography. It even offers possibility of meeting a person across the world. According to the report by scientists at the University of Rochester, online dating has become the number two form of matchmaking in the U.S. For people who prefer to find date with same racial backgrounds, online dating can help them achieve their goal by quickly narrowing and filtering preferences.

To be continued.

Mary Pei said...

Mei, 32, seriously considered having a relationship with American when she had lived in U.S. for 5 years. Eventually she abandoned this idea because she couldn’t find a connection with American guys who don’t speak Chinese. “It means a lot to me to speak the same native language and share the same background. I can’t imagine living with someone who doesn’t have a deep understanding of Chinese culture.” She had been searching for a boyfriend with a Chinese background but had no success. Because of the limited social circle, she couldn’t find someone special until she started searching online. Mei married and relocated last year. Jun, Mei’s husband, who is also a Chinese immigrant, said they were so lucky to meet each other online. “I was hesitating to add Mei into my contact list because she was in a different state, and I will have to drive 10 hours in order to meet her,” Jun described, “but her statement was so touching that I felt having a strong connection with her.” Jun and Mei married after one year long-distance dating.

Many Chinese immigrants, like Jun and Mei, believe that they can’t be understood as a person completely without the similar backgrounds. Yu came to U.S. when she was 10. She is most comfortable speaking English and dated white men. “I wasn’t looking for a Chinese boy friend,” said Yu, “I was likely to marry a white American man.” But she changed her attitude after she visited her hometown in China several times; her white boyfriends couldn’t share what she experienced and felt. In 2005, she married Wen, a Chinese immigrant whom she met online. “We share Chinese food, Chinese books, and the experience how we grow up in a Chinese family. I had never shared so much with any American boy friends,” said Yu.

There are many online dating websites that focus on Asian-Americans. Jiaoyou8, where Mei and Jun met, is the largest dating site for overseas Chinese. When I was reviewing the statements and preferences people posted on Jiaoyou8, I noticed that many statements were written only in Chinese. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the help of the online dating Web site filter overcomes the barriers of interracial marriage or not. To Mei and Jun, what matters is culture, whether date speaks Chinese or deeply understands Chinese culture matters. Is culture one of the barriers of interracial marriage to Asian-Americans?

Statistics show that the rate of interracial marriage among Asians has been declining since 1980, especially among native-born Chinese. What caused this decline is complex. It could be explained that Chinese-Americans have gained new ways to seek the quality marriage; one of these ways is to use online dating to expand the dating pool.

Amber Knutson said...

Rebecca - it was very interesting to me when you wrote about the constant contact found with technology these days and your and your children's feelings about it. Because you didn't grow up with cellphones, you find the constant contact rather invasive. On the other hand, your son "doesn't know any better" and probably finds the contact normal. It got me thinking about your comment about online dating.

While we're all debating the consequences of technology - specifically the cell phone and the internet/computer - we may at times forget that these technologies are a part of life now. Finland recently made the internet a "legal right" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10461048) and the United Nations quickly offered that the internet is a human right (http://www.npr.org/2012/07/06/156354693/u-n-human-rights-council-back-internet-freedom).

This is the new world. This is the new way to connect, to build relationships, and to find people. Mary/Di wrote about how Asian Americans are finding other Asian Americans via the internet. My brother (who's not Asian, by the way...:) ) found his last girlfriend online and my sister found her husband online. My best friend just recently started an account on Match.com.

The point is this: relationships and how we form and maintain them are no longer about "meeting a person" (Rebecca, para. 2). Our world has evolved. That doesn't mean that it's evolved for the better. It's just changed with and through the technologies. How we stay in contact with people when we're abroad and in other countries, as in Sicong/Bill's and Sarah's case, is through the internet. Maintaining relationships is sometimes less about seeing a person face to face and more about liking their facebook status, commenting on their random photo updates, or tagging them in your own status updates. I don't know if anyone can put a good or bad label on it, since what people are doing is merely evolving with the technologies.

My own personal feelings about the oversharing and the constant contact probably showcase my upbringing. I wasn't born with a cellphone; I didn't have my own computer until I was practically a teenager (and even then it was connected to an outlet and a desk all of the time). I find facebook mostly irritating because it showcases people's stupidity most of the time - especially when it comes to: politics, religion, parenting, school, relationships, marriages, cooking, writing, spelling, reading, and many, many more. I'd prefer not to know how stupid people are. But, I've got to be a part of the world that I live in. And this is the only one I've got.

Sicong Zhao said...

I feel like the skills. most of them I learnt, were not skills directly related to natural environment. For example, computers, driving, operating some machines, they're an indirect interaction with nature through some artificial things, which leads to a even severer problem- the inability to communicate with mother nature.

Sarah Wiley said...

In response to Mary's article - I too know of many stories of overseas Indians doing the same thing. There are even sites that cater to specific castes. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. And considering I married an Overseas Asian I find this a very interesting phenomena...

Aimee Burch said...

My dad is the youngest of five boys, with there being about seven years age difference between him and my uncle. Naturally with this kind of age difference, my cousins are older than me, most of them married with kids of their own. With such an age gap, my brother, my cousin (who is the same age as me), and myself have always felt kind of left out. Like all of our cousins had this connection and were part of a different world than we were. On top of that, we're all scattered all over the country, which makes actually seeing each other face-to-face kind of a challenge.
Now you're probably wondering, what does that have to do with technology? I believe technology has helped bridge that gap. When my cousins began reaching out to me via Facebook, texting, etc., it felt like I was finally getting to know them. I was able to see pictures of their everyday lives and get to know them on more than just a kind of surface, "I'll be nice because you're related" sort of way.
It kind of works both ways too. I was able to share major life accomplishments with them (graduations, dances, races and awards I'd received, etc.). They were able to be a part of my life as well. It was kind of cool.
Technology is by no means perfect, and will never really replace the feelings of face-to-face communication. It will never be as great as gathering around with the people you love and care about. But it has gone a long way in helping people connect, which is all kind of cool.

Aimee Burch said...

I would have to agree with those of us who have discussed our dislike of oversharing on social media. I try not to be one of "those" people I despise who post passive-aggressive comments and updates, just trying to get attention. The only time I have ever really posted a food picture was the first time I successfully made dinner without a smoke alarm going off. Naturally, I was pretty proud of myself then and wanted to brag a little bit :)
Even though I enjoy studying politics, I hate seeing the posts on my newsfeed. Which is hard considering so many of friends are political science people. My cousin and her husband met on eHarmony, so I have also seen an online relationship blossom.
It's all a weird conundrum. You want to post things you feel are important or newsworthy, but also don't want to alienate, isolate, or upset people. It is hard to navigate the digital world sometimes.

Raeann Ritland said...

I chose to look at this from the perspective of my own family and how our communication routine has changed due to technology.

Let me start by saying that I grew up on a farm that was located five miles from town. We did not have cable television, my mom was the only cell phone carrier until my brother turned 16 (my sister and I shared our first phone two years later at age 15), and we had no computer until I was 11. Even then, we had dial-up Internet that shared the single phone line. Thus, my brother, sister, and I were allowed a half hour of Internet per day. My mom started working outside the home for the first time, so the phone was necessary. But she had no need for the Internet and was rarely on the computer. We communicated face-to-face for the majority of our interactions. Of all of us, I was the only one to push the ½-hour rule, desiring to chat with my friends longer.

When Becky and I turned 17, things changed. By this time, all our extra-curricular activities necessitated the adoption of cell phones for each child. My dad, however, still refused (he caved a few years later—once we’d all gone off to college). Instead of communicating via physical interaction, we spent more time communicating via phone, but we were still talking at home, too. Like before, I was the one to push the limits, deciding it was worth it to pay the $5/month for 250 text messages, so I could talk to my friends. I also increased my use of the Internet due to another huge change in my family: My parents decided that after 25 years of renting, it was time to build a house on the land we owned, land that was less than a mile from town. This meant we were eligible for high-speed Internet. It still took a couple years before we convinced my dad it was necessary (Wow! That was an ordeal.) We still do not have cable television; on that point, he refuses to budge.

At the same time, my brother graduated high school, bought his own computer, and went to college. When it came time for my sister and I to follow, we bought desktop computers, which meant no coming home unless we had paper homework. Thus, my mom bought her first laptop (apparently she likes having us around).

In the coming years, my mom changed careers two more times, finally settling on contracting her time with a company for whom she does certification. This means that she must have constant, immediate contact with people all over the world. Thus, she bought another laptop for herself, a newer, nicer computer for her office (where she spends the majority of her time), and added data to her phone.

All these changes have caused a decrease in face-to-face interactions, as computers are essential in completing our day-to-day professional and academic requirements. In order to compensate, we used phones for a while; however, phones require a person to stop working, make the call, and spend the time talking. Texting does not: it’s quicker, easier, and replying can be done in the midst of other work. Thus, I was successful in convincing everyone to get texting. While increasing the convenience of communicating with family, they again decreased our talking to one another. Thus, our relationships are not what they once were. I wouldn’t say they are categorically worse for having adopted the use of technology, but they are definitely not as rich as they once were.

Raeann Ritland said...

Facebook seems to be a topic of debate for many people. It has the power to connect an infinite number of people, an amazing feat, and it can also help people sustain and strengthen relationships that otherwise might fail or never happen (as is the case for Aimee and her cousins). However, it also has to power to diminish the substance of relationships people make and have. That is, the seeming unimportance of so many posts make relationships far more superficial than they were before.

That said, my own opinion/evaluation regarding Facebook is rather mixed. I have to agree with Rebecca, Sarah, and Amber that the number of stupid people out there who post the most trivial, unimportant, and idiotic things is huge; however, I do not discount the messages they post because for me, they can be a source of comic relief in a very hectic lifestyle. In addition, they are a great way to keep up-to-date with the latest gossip circling small towns (which, being from a small town, is essential for me :P). Likewise, I've been able to stay in contact with friends I otherwise would have lost due to their moving away and making lives for themselves. I've even been able to find friends in the least expected places--those people I hated in high school. However, I must also point out that my own usage of Facebook is simply to keep up to date with what other people are doing; like Aimee, I do not want to be one of "those people" who posts every detail of my life, so I rarely post anything at all.

Mary Pei said...

I don't hate facebook, but I really resist it and have been trying to keep a distance from it. It's interesting to know why people love posting on facebook. My friend Tony explained why he has made so much noise on facebook: it's because he works from home and have no much face to face interaction with people during the daytime, and he really wants to talk about his day and share his emotions. Another friend Vivian, she is just lonely and wants some caring on facebook. She even has some facebook friends whom she never meet them in her life, but they do comment on each other's pictures and status. I always intended to ask whether facebook helps them get what they want. Does social network solve the problem of being lonely?

Amber Knutson said...

Mary,
I think that some people use facebook for loneliness for sure. My mom has hundreds of facebook friends that she's never met and all of them talk about how sad they are because their children have moved away. I guess, it's like a group of sad people and hopefully they can cheer each other up.

Mary Pei said...

Amber, it makes sense that social network helps lonely people find support by assembling together. It's ironic that people like my friend Tony are alienated and isolated by technology but tend to find attention on social network. I am not sure what we lost on technologies can be redeemed on it.