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“like” to love me: technology’s impact on relationships

By in Opinions


Android Lovin

Even though technology has helped us in many ways it does hinder us from having truly meaningful human relationships.

With Valentine’s Day just past I’ve decided to give you all some great romantic date ideas that will blow your partner’s mind faster than you can say “relationship status” on Facebook.

First, start by taking them to a nice dinner; if you’re not sure where to go spend about 15 minutes on Urbanspoon coming up with the right place to eat. I’m sure your date has some opinions but can they really compete with an 85 per cent “like” rating and the two dollar signs representing a decent deal? I think not.

Then it’s movie time. Compare reviews from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes so that you don’t go wasting time and money. Make sure to book the tickets online so you don’t have to stand in a line for too long making meaningless small talk with your date.

If you find yourself on your phone a lot, just tell them that you’re tweeting about how much fun you’re having. Instagram a picture or two to prove it. Don’t forget clever hashtags like #datenight or #love. Then at the end of the night when it’s time to part ways you’ll easily tell from your date’s body language that you’re in the clear for that goodnight kiss — or are you?

Who are we kidding? At this rate you probably couldn’t tell if they wanted you to kiss them or kiss off. Where’s a winky face emoticon when you need it?

This scenario is all too common in our society’s current dating scene.

A couple of days ago I watched the Oscar nominated movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson. The movie is about a lead character purchasing a voiced operating system similar to Siri for the iPhone and eventually falling in love with “Her.”

I’m sure the concept seems somewhat far-fetched and exaggerated, but are our relationships with the digital world that much different?

Technology is part of every facet of our lives to the point where I have to ask: what is sacred? What part of our lives can remain untouched by technology and the ramifications that come with the world now being so connected?

The movie Her plays with the idea that relationships between humans are something that can be simulated, processed and therefore duplicated. Although Scarlett Johansson’s character Samantha was an OS with a conscience, the movie simply proves that relationships are built on expectations and that when those expectations are failed the relationship dies.

Is this why we’ve all developed such a comfort in technology and technological relationships? Is it because we’ve developed a system that we fully understand and know how to act because of the rules we’ve developed through time?

This may sound abstract, but we all know the rules I’m talking about. How long do you wait until can you text someone back? Which pictures of your ex-partner on Instagram are you allowed to like? How long do you have to be dating until you can change your relationship status on social media?

We are bombarded with notifications and without fail we somehow let that alert coming from our phones take priority over whatever else is happening in the real world.

In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, the boyfriend of the work crazed main character says “the person whose calls you always take, that’s the relationship you’re in.” Now the context might have been meant for the demanding boss that won’t stop calling, but this same concept can be applied to your phone.

Technology has even found its place in cliché movie moments. Like throwing your phone into some sort of body of water to validate your commitment, logging off a chat room, satisfyingly closing your laptop or getting a notification that the girl of your dreams has friend requested you online. These virtual actions ripple into our very real lives and blur the lines between what is genuine and what’s not.

Now I’m not suggesting we all regress and go back to the past of dial up and having to stop and ask for directions — as terrifying as that might seem to some. Instead I suggest for us all to remember exactly what that tech was meant for. Technology is meant to be a convenience, not a necessity.

As in, you really shouldn’t be having that panic attack every time you misplace your cell phone. You shouldn’t feel like you have to resort to an online algorithm of your personality to attract people. There really should not be a category called “Facebook Friends” somewhere between “friends” and “acquaintances.” The term “social media” has become an oxymoron and we are the only ones to blame.

Honing in on the concept of romantic tech-based relationships as portrayed in Her, I couldn’t help but notice that there are some things that Samantha the OS does better than some of us humans. She listens. I can’t stress hard enough the difference between “listening” and “responding.”

Because we have managed to almost entirely wipe out the once leisurely activity that was the common phone call — I am one of those people that does occasionally suffer from awkward phone silence stress — we have relied largely on text-based mediums to communicate. That means that we have become familiarized with words and not actions.

Now being someone who does truly believe in the power of the word, I doubt eloquent and vivid rhetoric is what we are thinking of when we finger babble with people for hours on end.

Samantha the OS may be a computer but she notices things like voice tremors and hesitations that can help deduce what Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) might be feeling. When we try to deduce emotions through text — well I’m sure this has gone horribly wrong for everyone at least once.

When we receive text messages our first thought is what are we going to say next. I’m definitely guilty as someone who thinks that they are funnier via text than in person, but it’s only been lately that I’ve truly understood why.

We are given the gracious opportunity to think before we text, and it gives us the chance to sound wittier in what seems like an automatic response. Taking a minute to respond to a text and sound humorous is a lot easier than doing so in real life and appearing to have a couple screws loose.

Because we have made a game out of this banter, the person beyond the computer tends to be absolute. If you see their face the next day there’s a slight disconnection between them and their virtual selves. Heck, maybe you even like them better when they’re talking to you through a computer.

Technology has become a crutch for human contact. We can’t seem to get passed the screen and see it as a thin portal that can transport us to a world that we are already living in. Socializing has become a group of people that sit together and show each other cool things they found on the Internet.

One of the things that intrigued me about the movie Her was that, apart from the occasional scoffing and maybe a dirty look, no one really took notice of human beings falling in love with operating systems. This didn’t make any sense to me.

Where were the angry purists that should be disgusted by these quasi-couples? Where are the protesters holding up signs that say “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and C3PO!” But I then understood why no one was rioting. It’s because no one cares.

The message that we should all spend less time on our countless devices has piled under other cautious warnings like “drink a glass of milk before bed” or “give up your seat to an elderly or pregnant person on the bus.” Just because we know we should do it, doesn’t mean we all will. Instead we’ll stick with the consequences because our habits are comfortable and we’re too committed to change now.

I now pronounce you human and robot, to like, subscribe and follow for as long as you pay your Internet provider.

And if you think that this fetish with all things digital only relates to how you deal with other people, I’d appreciate you if you download this reality check.

We spend more time posting pictures than really remembering what we’re seeing. For years television technology has been trying to perfect a resolution that we were all born with — or if you’re me, can achieve with stylish glasses.

We upload pictures, tweet our thoughts, accept friend requests, all in hope that we can paint an accurate picture of who we are, or maybe who we want to be online.

But let’s think of a crazy scenario here. Let’s say the screen is black. No notifications. No virtual people trying to reach you. Let’s say you have to work a little harder to talk to your friends. Who would you put that effort in for? Who knows more about you than what your favorite filter is or your frequently used hashtags are? When was the last time you tried to make someone laugh in-person instead of a bunch of people saying “LOL” over text?

These in-person, human interactions are the relationships that matter. These are the links that don’t disappear. These are the people who don’t have to click anything to prove that they like you and want you in their lives.

Graphic: Pascal Dimnik

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