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Are You Becoming An Emoticon?

February, 2014


Whether you like it or not, cyberspace has become the new frontier in social relationships BUT according to a new survey of top tech leaders and experts, social networking technology is robbing people of meaningful face-to-face human relationships.

"Social networking encourages people to have a greater number of much shallower friendships,'' said Gervase Markham, a Mozilla Foundation programmer. "I know what 15 of my friends had for breakfast, but I don't know whether any of them is struggling with major life issues. If this trend continues, people in 2020 will have hundreds of acquaintances, but very few friends.''


Humans need physical contact with each other. Infants sink into depression and die without it. How parents interact physically with them becomes a cornerstone of their identity and well-being. Adults deprived of tactile contact for long periods will tell you just how depriving it feels. In day-to-day relationships, never underestimate the power of a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug, or a kiss.

In multimedia chat communication, you snuggle up to an avatar or get a virtual [[[hug]]] in text or an emoticon. The subtle but powerful dimensions of in-person human touch are missing. You can't and never will be able to hold the people you love in cyberspace.

In the REAL physical, tactile, spatial world, we can DO things with people. We can play tennis, go for a walk, eat dinner together... and, of course, have sex. When we do things with people, it creates bonds. It creates a history to the relationship with powerful physical, tactile and spatial activities and interactions.


The scent of perfume, hair, clothes, skin. Smell brings us very close to the other. It stirs up powerful emotional reactions. The sense of taste brings us closer still. It's the sensation of lovers. One might say that smell and taste are rather "primitive" interpersonal sensations, but both are the cornerstones of deep intimacy - maybe because they ARE so primitive, so fundamental. In addition to touch, smell and taste are the primary ways an infant connects to its mother. It is one's very first, essential relationship that serves as the prototype for all later relationships in one's life. On the level of the smelling/tasting dimension of intimate relationships, virtual relationships fall flat.

The human face and body language are rich in meaning and emotion. In "text-only" communication, all these visual cues are missing. The human voice is rich in meaning and emotion. Just the sound of a loved one's voice can be enough to create feelings of comfort and joy and powerfully unite people.

With texting, the subtle nuances in voice pitch and volume are completely absent. With "text-only", a person's intended meaning can be misunderstood and cause conflict. If you discuss your (mis)perceptions with your friend in person, you are revealing the underlying truth about how you think and feel. It's what gives your relationship depth and meaning.

The pathways for people to communicate, connect, and bond with each other are through the five senses: hearing the other person, seeing the other person, touching/tasting the other person and smelling the other person.

People who prefer communicating with others via wires and circuits may fear the depth, intimacy and closeness of real 'live' human contact.

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