Digital Communication: Are We Moving Towards or Away from Each Other?

I remember when my mom first made a Facebook account. She was so excited to connect with people she hadn’t talked to or probably even thought about in years. To this day, she would argue that Facebook brings people together as she’s discovered many relatives she didn’t even know existed and connected with them on Facebook (she is really into the ancestry/family tree stuff). So yes, in this case, digital communication brings people together.

However…

As a whole, I think it enables us to socialize without even getting out of bed and I don’t mean that positively.

I think some of us lose motivation to go out in the world, approach people, make new friends, smile at a stranger, etc. due to the enablement of digital communication. I ride the T (Boston subway) most days to work and everyone is face down, looking at their phones. Not that I expect to make new friends on the T…

I am very happy for everyone who has found love via dating apps. I will say that I have an extremely hard time with the thought of connecting with someone through a dating app and liking them enough to go on a date. You can only find out so much about a person via internet stalking (or “research” if that sounds better lol). Internet stalking will not tell you if they are kind to others, and it will not tell you if they are trustworthy. You may find their best friend’s – cousin’s – husband’s middle name, but some of those other very important pieces of the puzzle will be missing. Again, I have many friends who have found amazing people through dating apps. This is simply a fear of mine about where the world is headed.

I also find it difficult to catch up with people over texting. If I have a detailed story to tell a friend, it takes forever to type it out. I’m not able to laugh with that friend or sense any type of emotional response. I mean seriously, how often do we text someone “LOL” when we don’t really laugh out loud.

When you send a text message or an email, you don’t get to hear the person’s tone of voice. You don’t get to see the person’s facial expressions (although, I know emojis help). Messages are often misinterpreted due to the fact they are received through a medium – an intervening substance through which something is transmitted.

I can tie this concept to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (see video below if you’ve never heard of it or need a refresher).

Everything the prisoners in the cave witness are only shadows of reality as opposed to reality itself. I believe digital communication is a mere shadow of reality, whereas in-person communication brings us closer to that truth.

On the other hand, sometimes digital communication is all we’ve got (trust me, I understand because most of my friends and family live hundreds of miles away).

While digital communication connects us to more people and makes it easier to keep in touch with those we don’t see regularly, it also distances us from experiencing the unfiltered energy of other humans. I know it always sounds dark and dramatic when I say this, but I do feel we are becoming more and more like the prisoners represented in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. If you couldn’t tell, I’m an old soul (I took a buzzfeed quiz that relayed that fact to me earlier this week!). I had to stop watching Black Mirror because it stressed me out too much. I crave the old-fashioned ways of socializing. To me, the old ways are the light.

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