Taalgenoot interview on the impact of Technololgy on Human Relationships

online dating1. How does communication technology change the interaction of people (for example: from as young as 11 years children start to MXit and spend as much as 3 hours per day in their own virtual world.. But on Facebook long lost friends can keep in contact. Kindly give positive and negative comment)

Technology allows people to stay in touch with friends or family in remote places that could be very difficult or expensive otherwise. One of the first stories I discovered about MXit, was that of a grandmother in South Africa who was communicating with her grandsons in the UK. She was using MXit, and they were using MSN Messenger on a PC. Skype also allows people to make free voice calls over the Internet at no cost to anyone in the world using Skype.

The problem with technology as a communication medium is that increasingly people do not take responsibility for their actions. So for example people are cancelling appointments or meetings using SMS. Teenagers and adults are breaking up relationships and asking for a divorce using SMS. So technology allows people to avoid any negative reaction from other people. And the really bad part of this behaviour is that you never get to learn, through feedback, a valuable lesson in human relationships.

2. What can parents do to keep tabs on their children’s technology use (such as MXit and Facebook)

With MXit parents can install it on their own phones and add their children as a contacts. This way they can see when their children go online and when they go offline. Be warned that many children will refuse or delete their parents as a contact. When they delete your contact, after accepting you. You will see them as offline all the time, which defeats the purpose of monitoring them. If you have a good relationship with your children this will work.

With Facebook, simply register with Facebook, and search for their profiles. Again be warned you cannot see their profile unless they have accepted you as a Facebook friend. And most teenagers will not do this because it’s just not cool. If you have an open relationship ask them to show you how Facebook works, including a detailed explanation of their profiles.

3. What does communication technology do to the one to one and group communication skills of teens and young people. (eg. to introverts MXit is a way to express themselves but they lack the ability to build relationships etc.)

It can both increase their social contact and decrease their social skills. On MXit, the chat rooms are anonymous because people use nicknames. You may be able to say something in a chat room you could never say in person. So you never learn how to be assertive. And if you are already shy you may after a lot of time practising improve your ability to communicate. The challenge is that when you communicate online, either MXit, or Facebook, you cannot read body language or voice tone, and this reduces the amount of information you have available. So it’s a short term solution for a introverted child to use technology to communicate with people. They should, with help from their parents and teachers, learn how to communicate face to face. Debating clubs and public speaking classes is very good for this

4. Does technology changes the psyche? (Do people become more directed towards technology than their fellow-men?)

There is a growing amount of research that proves that multitasking is a myth. Also with technology many people are learning how to intelligently avoid real work in companies. When people in an office is surfing the Web (including Facebook) it can seem like they are working and yet they are not doing anything work related at all. It’s likely that South Africa is loosing hundreds of millions of Rand due to unproductive employees. And the responsibility lies with the companies to educate their employees on good online etiquette. More specifically I’m becoming very pessimistic about the impact of technology because so much of it is a form of escapism from reality: everything from playstations, to chat room, or online social networks. Nothing beats the real thing!

5. How do you personally use communication technology (Facebook) and how much time do you spend on it

I use or at least try out all new technology as it emerges. I am also a regular blogger and contribute to many online forums. The most important technology for me is email, cellphones and Skype. My primary focus is using technology to communicate with large numbers of people in a personalised way. What I mean is I can use a bulk email software to email 1,000 people using their first name like “Hi Karen” and this gets a much higher response rate. In terms of time I spend to much time using the Internet because its at the core of my business. I spend about 8-10 hours online 6 days a week. I also switch my cellphone off after 8pm and have been working toward ONE Technology FREE day per week, usually Saturdays.

6. Which communication technology is used the most by the different generations?

  • Preteens and teens – MXit and other instant messaging platforms
  • 20 and 30 year olds – Facebook and email, yes
  • 40 – 60 year olds – Cellphone and email, yes
 

Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.