Admittedly I am of a generation that came to the internet either eagerly in early adulthood or reluctantly slightly later. I am in the latter group. I used to be a happy pen to paper letter writer, and I am an obvious advocate of face to face communication, but I have embraced the technology and certainly recognize its profound impact on how people engage with one another.
DailyStrength provides a community of individuals who share common goals and concerns. It offers professional and personal advice and even provides a venue for making new friends. This is all good stuff. Social networking sites are set up differently than DS but also provide many of the same things but with the stated goals of connecting or reconnecting with others either platonically or romantically. I have even had a few clients meet and marry as a result of internet dating sites. In a large city, where it is often difficult for people to meet likeminded singles, this is a wonderful option. So in general I am a big fan and often encourage my clients to make use of this (relatively) new technology to improve their lives.
What I am left wondering though, is if anything is being lost or missed by sitting in front of a screen and typing out our thoughts to a potential mate. Some people are very good at it and are adept at the screening process and others struggle to try and connect. Relationships sometimes take what seems like an unnatural course as personal information gets revealed on-line that may have taken several dates to unfold in the past. The lack of facial expression and body language can actually mislead the receiver of the information and result in unnecessary misunderstandings.
Then there is the problem of isolation. While chatting on-line is better than no contact at all, who doesn't feel more connected after seeing a friend face to face than they do when they communicate via computer or text message? There are certainly those individuals that would be more likely to motivate and seek social contact if communicating on-line were not an option. I recognize as well that there are also those individuals that, because of psychological or physical barriers, would simply be cut off from outside contact. For them this method of communication is invaluable.
So therein lay the dilemma that comes with all new life altering inventions - what is lost and what is gained? Overall the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but I think it is incumbent on us as a society, and certainly on those in my profession who are trained to help facilitate healthy communication, to emphasis the importance of human contact. Individuals need to weigh the time they spend looking at a screen with the time they are in the presence of friends and loved ones. If the scale begins to tip towards the former a conscious adjustment should be made. Connections may be made on the computer but cherished memories are not, and it is important that we don't miss out on participating in life because we are too busy responding to emails or meeting new faceless people on-line.