While technology certainly has its drawbacks when it comes to human interaction, it would be remiss not to praise it’s ability to strengthen relationships when used well.
In an article on the benefits of technology on relationships, author Shawn Clark recognizes that “without communication, there is no connection.” Technology has given us accessibility and the ability to communicate more than ever before. This transforms the way we do long-distance relationships. I have really appreciated being able to debrief and catch up with friends and family while I’ve been away from home. I also have friends that go to school in other parts of the country or who have spent time abroad and we have been able to maintain our closeness because of messaging apps, Skype, and Snapchat.
Before digital communication, long-distance relationships would have relied on written letters. Time between responses was long and much would have been missed. Now we can keep in touch weekly or even daily. Much of relationship building comes with doing life together. Technology even allows us to do this through Skype. I have Skyped friends while working on homework, hanging out in a park, driving, or cleaning. We both work on our projects and chat in between. This allows us to see and remember each other’s habits and mannerisms and maintain connection in a slightly more tangible way.
It’s still true, though, that these conversations can occasionally be misinterpreted because they lack full attention, body language, tone of voice, and physical affirmation. These missing elements can sometimes lead to misinterpretation of a situation or a person’s emotions. But when you’re already close to someone, developing a digital relationship is less difficult and all-around beneficial.
Recently I was discussing the topic with some friends. We all agreed that nothing compares with face-to-face interaction and that it can be unhealthy to overuse digital communication. But when used well, it brings us even closer. We specifically talked about Snapchat. We see each other all the time, but we still use snapchat to share little moments or thoughts throughout the day. We share ridiculous reactions that we capture of each with our other friends. As long as it’s not excessive, it can be quite fun.
It was because of my friends that I started using snapchat in the spring. But it ended up being one of my favorite ways to communicate long distance. When I came back from studying abroad in Nicaragua last fall, I discovered the near impossibility of describing my experience to people in one sitting. It’s difficult to explain with only words the kind of environment that you’re in. When I went to Nicaragua for the summer, I was on Snapchat, and I found it to be a great way to keep in touch.
What I love about snapchat is the ability it gives you to quickly share a moment with someone who is close to you. When you give someone who cares about you a tiny glimpse into what you’re experiencing, it builds connection. Not only that, it can be very raw in contrast to the selected and edited photos we usually see posted to social media. One blogger wrote: “The conversation had changed from presenting the prettiest sides of our lives to us sharing the spontaneous and honest aspects.”
While we certainly need to exercise caution and control when maintaining digital relationships, we do not want to overlook the benefits that new technology has to offer with bringing us closer to people in our lives and around the world.