Is Technology to Blame for Clicking Off Friendships?

A discussion on how technology seems to be disconnecting people.

Woman to Women

Instant Messaging vs. Staying in Touch

Sub-texts: Is technology clicking off friendships?

-Jennifer Lubell

woman on a cell phoneFor months, I’d been hoping to hear from Cathy, an old friend of mine who had moved across the country to raise her family in Portland, OR.

In college, when we both had longer hair, cheaper clothes and more free time to sleep in on weekdays before classes, Cathy and I used to see each other in the cafeteria every day. She had a hearty, infectious laugh and a wacky sense of humor. To this day, I can’t watch the movies Airplane or Spaceballs without thinking of her.

Several years ago, Cathy left her son and husband behind and hopped on a plane to Baltimore, MD, to see me get married. Since then, we’ve barely talked.

We send each other holiday cards with photos of our families. But that’s about it.

When we do make contact, it’s almost always initiated by me. Recently, an e-mail from Cathy popped up in my inbox, and I opened it with excitement – only to find out that it was a joke about raising kids that she’d sent to a dozen other people.

I wrote her back and said, “Hey, how about some personal news about your own family?”

A week later I got a response – just a few lines about how her son was doing.

It was nice to hear from her, but I wished that she had told me more about her life, how her job was going, how her husband was making out with his career, whether their old cat was still alive.

After all we’d been through together over the past two decades I wanted to be MORE than just an impersonal e-mail address in her contact list.

In general, I’ve noticed this apathy among my friends to make contact.

You know how every social circle has an organizer? I’m that girl. It seems that I’m always the one making the first move, arranging that girl’s night out or lunch with friends. If I hear from out-of-town friends, it’s usually through a group e-mail, asking me to sponsor them in their local breast cancer “run for the cure” or to send a story or a joke to 200 of their closest acquaintances.

Or, I get the obligatory, mass-produced holiday card in the mail from friends I haven’t talked to in years, whose sole objective, it seems, is to show off their kids in uncomfortable-looking Christmas outfits that Little Lord Fauntleroy would be embarrassed to wear.

Despite our busy lives, we have more options than ever to stay in touch, with e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones. It only takes a moment to ‘reach out and touch someone,’ yet these newfangled toys seem to be disconnecting people, not bringing them closer together.

Because it’s so easy to make contact, people take the technology – and friendships – for granted.

I’ve decided in the meantime to take a break from being Julie, the Cruise Director (from The Love Boat) and wait for some of these wayward friends to contact ME – and relish in the few that do take the time to call or e-mail me on a regular basis.

If I hear a funny joke, I’ll make a point of telling it to people – in person.

Tell us: do you think you have lost contact with friends BECAUSE OF technology?

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