Biko Kennedy & Whitney Blackwood, Youthlink Writers
Imagine a time when guys and girls would pick up the house phone to make plans for dinner or to schedule a date to hang out at a nearby mall. Do you remember what it was like to have one computer to share, one phone for the entire household and, perhaps, even one email address for the entire family? Today, things are greatly different. We now have several gadgets via which to stay in constant dialogue; isn't modern technology a marvel? From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, the BlackBerry messenger (BBM) and even a simple SMS message, the idea of virtual communication has become such a phenomenon that, at times, it plays a key role in destroying relationships. This begs the question, are these means of communication relationship's kryptonite?
Txtng + on a date = :(
There is such a thing as date etiquette. On a date, while it's generally understood and accepted that you or your date may need to make emergency calls or receive an important one, the moment the cellphone becomes the third wheel on the date, everything will go downhill from there. In its purest sense, a date is a time for two persons to get together with the ultimate aim of getting to know each other. It's only fair that you give each other full and undivided attention during those few hours you spend together. Having a conversation with your date then constantly taking your eyes off him/her to look at your cellphone for incoming texts or emails does communicate that he/she is not all that important to you and that your mind is elsewhere while you are talking. Whether it's on purpose or out of habit, it will still make the other person feel the same way - insignificant.
Once you press 'send' ...
As Peter Parker/Spider-Man's Uncle Ben once said, "With great power, comes great responsibility". The same can be said in this digital age. The greatest power we have in common is that of our voice. By now, you must realise that once you press 'send' on any device, there's no turning back from it. So, if you're kind of unsure of how you feel about particular things, don't make it ambiguous, try and be as direct and honest as you can be. It's the norm to hear about break-ups or disputes arising during any relationship, but is it really necessary to pour out your feelings on every social medium? Don't ever think that just because you are friends or partners with someone that you can send him/her anything and it will be kept quiet. There are so many cases of blackmail and lawsuits based on emails and texts that went badly, why would you think the chance of it happening to you is one in a trillion?
To ping or not to ping?
For those of you armed with a BlackBerry handset, that urge to respond to every ping from a BBM contact certainly needs to be taken care of. It's never acceptable to be contacting another person via your phone in the presence of your date - unless, of course, it's your parents. We know how important it is to post a new Facebook feed or Tweet, but doing so at the wrong time can ruin special moments as well. Do consider how your date will feel or, more so, how you would feel if the action was to be reciprocated.
Words without inflection ...
The thing that stands out the most while communicating non-verbally, via some means of technology, is that you don't hear the speaker's tone in the message being conveyed or see the body language of someone over a call. Take for example, "Do whatever you want to do, it won't bother me", you can either take it as sounding resentful or an open invitation of generosity. Unless you know your significant other's viewpoint on the subject, there is no way to tell if he/she is okay with it or not. If you are having a miserable day, it is remarkably easy to take that basic response and read all kinds of negative connotations into it that are reflections of your own mood. When you cannot hear someone's tone of voice, a quick response can come across as irritation when the person is simply trying to get through a busy day.
Communication is inevitable and vital in every form of relationship that exists. It can be a good thing, as well as it can be a factor that causes disintegration if not exercised with moderation. In essence, everyone likes to be paid some amount of attention, and rightly so. Cellphones and the Internet are driving forces behind many break-ups. Has texting or the use of social networking negatively or positively affected your committed relationships?