Have you ever wondered how technology affects relationships or the future of dating? After finally watching the movie “Her”, my mind is spinning with so many thoughts and questions about the ways technology affects relationships. The idea that one could actually develop a relationship with an inanimate object is truly disturbing. Yet, somehow, in this film, it is believable that this could happen in the near future.
More and more, people are disconnecting from engaging with each other in person. Most communication nowadays, especially with the younger generation, seems to be by text and email. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it is real. While it’s easy to judge and say it’s bad, that is not necessarily true. But it certainly is DIFFERENT.
I’ve seen teenagers have entire relationships via text messaging. They confirm that they are “dating” by text, and profess their love for one another by text. They “talk” an awful lot via text, but very little (or sometimes none at all) in person. The interesting part to me, though, is that I see a level of intimacy that is unique to the technology. Teens are discussing and revealing many things about themselves, and opening themselves up to vulnerability, in ways that they typically don’t feel safe doing in person. Is this real intimacy? I don’t know really, but it is a shift, it is real, and this is where we are heading.
Is it possible to have a “real” relationship with an operating system? As I type this, I’m thinking, “of course not.” Yet, somehow after seeing the movie, I could see it happening. If you saw the movie, you probably remember scenes with many people walking around talking, but none were talking to each other. Rather, they were talking to their devices, and disengaged from the people and things around them.
If you search the Internet for “what is intimacy?” you will find so many different meanings. Clearly, there is not one agreed upon meaning, which only makes the questions posed here harder to answer. What I can tell you is that many of my clients complain that their relationships lack intimacy. Yet they when I ask them what that means to them, they almost never focus on the physical aspects. It is most often about having a strong connection, about feeling heard and understood, and about believing their partner is supportive. I also hear clients talk about feeling a level of intimacy through phone calls and text messages that they share. So, at least to some extent, an intimate relationship can exist without the physical presence of another person.
So, hopefully, I’ve left you completely baffled and confused, because that is how I feel. There are so many changes going on around us, and so many questions left unanswered. Change and uncertainty can certainly be anxiety provoking, to say the least. As a therapist, though, this is an exciting time. It’s a time to look, listen, and learn. It’s a time to observe how the changes in our society affect relationships, both positively and negatively. Only time will truly tell what is to come of all of this, and by then, we will be already on to the next technology with even more questions!