A lot of times at the end of a relationship you get into that really weird place where you finally feel comfortable saying exactly what you think to the person and yet it’s too late for that to amount to anything productive. While in that phase at the end of last year my not-yet-ex told me that he thought we shouldn’t talk on chat any more. “WHY!???” I asked indignantly. It honestly felt like he was saying we shouldn’t eat in front of each other any more. “Because we are too available to each other,” he said. At the time I thought he was just being a stupid baby (which he was and still is) but now that I reflect on it I think it actually had some merit.
Anyone who spends a major part of their day on any chat platform (my guess is I’m talking to either the 9-to-5ers or the unemployed) knows that it’s really easy to spend hours and hours talking to people, sometimes not even people you feel intellectually or emotionally interested in speaking to. It’s like, this person says adequately funny things or sends adequately interesting links or represents some sort of social currency so yeah I guess I will talk to them all day long.
That’s a problem for a number of reasons, the obvious ones being that it reduces (or outright replaces) productivity and that it has odd implications for your interpersonal relationships. But those criticisms can be said of really any interactive social media platform; texting and Facebook for example are equally culpable time-wasters that equally expose you to people you don’t necessarily care about talking to.
But that criticism aside, I think the biggest worry is what my dummy ex mentioned; that chat makes people too available to each other.
I’ve often commented that I feel jealous that I grew up immediately before the proliferation of social networking (Facebook came out when I was a sophomore in college, for reference) because I was shy and nervous and could have had way more productive, reciprocal, and communicative relationships if I’d had the internet to assist me in communication. Yes, part of that is immaturity. But part of that is also introversion and a personality naturally predisposed to anxiety.
I think it’s great to have multiple mediums by which to communicate with people, especially if you’re the sort of person who struggles with effortless in-person communication. But I also think that there are problems with having shallow, brief, distracted, hours-upon-hours ‘conversation’. As old as this probably makes me sound, I really think there is something to be said for real, personal, up front communication, or even simply a reduced but therefore more meaningful amount of daily communication. Chatting for ten hours about what to order for lunch and the funny Vice article one of us read can only go so far, and at a certain point it starts to build a false sense of intimacy, where you begin to feel close to someone simply because you talked to them for a lot of hours in a row.
The fun part of relationships is staring into someones eyes and thinking about the color, hearing someone’s voice and inflection and really being able to tell what makes them excited and figuring out if they smell especially good to you re: body chemistry. IRL is pretty fucking important in all relationships. The lolz dolls have been together for years and we have hours long GChat conversations like, “Ok, what should we talk about now?” Sometimes we have important breakthroughs but in general it’s not that interesting even though our relationship is really good. We just distract each other saying stupid potentially salacious-for-the-sake-of-it stuff. Most of the content is about entertainment and distraction and not genuine connection like it might be if we were doing an activity together.
You would probably have to cut off my hands or imprison me to get me to stop using the internet in this function but I do think it’s worth thinking about. Like any ‘progressive medium’ it’s easy to get caught up thinking you have to see it til it’s absolute end and maybe that’s not the case. But love for the internet in tact, maybe it’s better to take meaningful conversations off the web. Just a thought.