While I have always associated internet-networking sites like Friendster, MySpace and the like with young teenagers posting their babble and shameless pixs of themselves online, I changed my mind recently about a site that works on a similar principle - Facebook. When I was first "invited" by a friend to join the online network, I was skeptical but decided to take the plunge after I discovered that a good number of my more sensible friends are on it, too. (And no, this is NOT a paid or sponsored posting by Facebook in case you're wondering.)
After joining the network late last year, I have found old, old friends that I would otherwise not know where to look. As I've lived on several continents in the last 15 years, my friends are spread across the globe. Again, Facebook has been wonderful to connect me with friends all over. Friends from church when I was a barely a teenager came a knocking on my Facebook door asking if I were the I'Ching they knew way back when. Today, a couple we know who are not quite the computer savvy type, added me to their friends list. How cool is that! Such applications of technology has definitely enhanced the possibilities of our social life.
However, are such platforms really helping us connect better as gregarious creatures? Have our relationships improved with the advent of such messengers? I'm not sure they have. We may think that we are connecting better but what we are doing better is just the technique - the substance of our relationships has not gotten better, I believe. While one can send hugs over Facebook, nothing will ever take the place of a real hug - the warmth, the touch and the smell of a real person. Communicating in short text sentences will never ease the pain of a broken heart as powerfully as crying to a friend over a cup of tea.