In the 90s, in the dawn of the Internet in South Africa, my friends and I used to hit up random chat rooms, because that’s about all there was on the Internet at the time. I mean, I barely had email at that stage. I happened to meet my first love/tortured romance/long distance affair this way (I like to think of myself as an Internet boyfriend pioneer) and also made a few other connections that turned into friendships or pen pals.
Out of the blue, the other day and some 20 years later, I got a Tweet from this guy that I used to chat to often and used to write tortured, angsty teenage letters to (poor guy!) and it blew my mind that he a) remembered me b) was able to simply contact me with a quick Googling and 140 characters. It got me thinking about how much has changed in terms of relationships because of technology.
That first boyfriend and I were on opposite sides of the globe (funnily enough, the side I ended up moving to years later…) and all we had was email (and we were on dial up), the phone (and that cost an absolute fortune) and letters. He was a pretty terrible correspondent, which didn’t help, but our options weren’t that broad. Today, I’m friends with him on Facecrack and have a million other ways I could contact him.
I was talking to a friend earlier today who is going through a similar long distance experience, except she is able to Skype, Whatsapp, text, email, Facebook, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. What struck me though (as she and I Skyped – she’s back in South Africa), is that as amazing as it is to be able to keep in touch through all these methods, it’s almost worse, because it’s that ‘so close, yet so far’ syndrome. We can see each other on video and hear each others’ voices, but it almost makes one feel even more distant.
Even though one of my favourite quotes is by Albert Einstein: “Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a mad man,” I am not a technophobe and I happen to enjoy using social media, whether for business or pleasure, but I can’t help but wonder how it has changed our relationships (including our ability to “meet” people on the other side of the globe) and what kind of messages we will get, out of the blue, in another 20 years time.
PS – I wonder what chat rooms old Einstein would’ve hung out in… ?