Caller ID became ubiquitous in the US in the early 90s. I was a mother of three boys, one of whom was approaching the precarious teen years. As he became more independent and naturally expanded his world, I was comforted by the new technology that displayed where he really was when he called home to check in. Admittedly, there were a few times in my adolescence when I was less than honest in reporting my whereabouts. Now that I was the parent, with the fears of knowing what was "out there ", being assured he was in a safe place was welcomed. However, with every good technological innovation there's a downside.
Before caller ID, the phone would ring, whoever was closest would answer, chat a bit with the caller and then pass the phone to the person being called. Other interested family members or friends, on either end, could pick up an extension and together generate a spontaneous, lively, shared group conversation. Seems kind of archaic now that we have apps like Skype on personal communication devices in our pockets with more capability than the computers that put a man on the moon. So what's the downside?
Technology has connected us more than ever, that's for sure. But it's a different kind of connection. Answering the phone without knowing who's calling compelled us to build relationships we might not otherwise attend to. I recall having meaningful conversations with my in-laws or the kids' friends or their parents because of my physical proximity to the phone. Those incidental associations no longer occur due to the omnipresent cell phone. With laser precision, we connect directly to the individual. No need to consider or interact with those around. Our relationship is often distilled down to the individual, not to the bigger environ in which he or she lives.
A friend of mine, who is a babysitting grandma, recently realized the dilemma of limited connectedness when her son and his family moved out of state. She had plenty of contact with her daughter-in -law concerning child care usually via texts, but few conversations except at family gatherings or drop off and pickups. No real history of phone conversations with her. What will happen to their relationship now that those frequent face to face encounters are gone? We explored how she might maintain that relationship with her daughter-in-law when most conversations are directly and solely with her son or Skyping with the grandson. These types of filtered relationships represent a significant transition in our current social communication practices. Creativity and adaptability will be key to building ongoing expanded relationships as technology expands and further infiltrates our lives. Keeping those close, personal ties with all family members is an important consideration for all of us.
- Is there someone you'd like to connect/reconnect with? How might you do it?
- How can you build, maintain, and improve your important relationships with or without technology?