Connections Are Not Bonds: Communication in New Media

Cook’s Choice: POST 6

Mom with Dad and Grand Kids

My mom died recently and one of the tasks that we were beset with was letting everyone know and to get the information out for the visitation, funeral and interment. It was through this process that I realized, again but in a different way, how much our modes of communication have changed and how splintered communication has become to me.

Contacting our longtime family friends was easy. My dad has meticulously kept the same Rolodex all our lives. We simply divided the letters and started calling everybody. We also placed an obituary in both Twin Cities papers. Covered!

For my own friends, I sent out a mass text, email and I posted the obituary to Facebook. It did not even occur to me to call anybody. It is a reflection more of my friends than of myself, because so many of my friends are on Facebook now and never even listen to voice mail, much less pick up their phones.

It was surprising who showed up and who didn’t. One of my best friends, who has become a Facebook junkie during the course of our friendship, didn’t show up even though she responded to the initial text without the obit info. Two weeks later texted me to ask me when the funeral was. When I told her she missed it she said she was “in and out” of Facebook and that I had the wrong email address. To bad she didn’t send out an update on her contact info. On the other hand, my oldest friend showed up because of the post on Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in decades and it was really good to reconnect.We have a date for dinner next week.

In the old days, before cell phones, I knew the habits of my friends. I knew when it was too early or late to call; I knew when they ate dinner and when their kids went to bed. There were life patterns that you were in tune with because you had a certain amount of intimacy with your friends and the most common way to communicate was by phone. This is not the norm any more and I think it has a lot to do with how our modes of communication have changed.

In the Atlantic article, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” there are a ton of studies cited and points made about loneliness, narcissism and the difference between connections and bonds. The main point I took away from this fascinating article is that bonds are much deeper then an online connection. Research bears out that face to face contact is still the strongest method to build true bonds between people. In Facebook, you get out of it what you put into it, and the more “complex” a communication is, especially if it causes you to connect in person, the more high quality the interaction it is.

Especially after this class, I realize I need to use new media more intentionally than I have been, both for making a better world and for making my personal bonds stronger. But I won’t forget to invite someone to have a cup of coffee or have new people and old friends over for dinner on a regular basis. These actions build the bonds that truly are the ties that bind and keep a strong social net.

3 thoughts on “Connections Are Not Bonds: Communication in New Media

  1. Communicating with new media is definitely a way to bring people closer together. My boyfriend texting me just to tell me "good morning" or ask how work or class is reassures me how much he really likes and cares about me. Texting also makes meeting up a lot easier (though we now live with each other) because, like so many other people nowadays, we both have our cell phones with each other all the time – even while I'm working – but talking on the phone is often inconvenient. I will also instant message him on Facebook when we're apart and I see he's online, and hasn't returned a text for some time. But I know we couldn't have nearly as good of a relationship as we do, especially with it being a new one, if it wasn't for also communicating in person so much, something that no digital way of doing so can ever replace.

  2. A boyfriend or partner is one thing. You already have the intimacy between you. What about the rest of your community? Is it common to have bonded, lifelong friends by creating them online? And would you have this bonded relationship without ever having met them face to face? Definitely read the Atlantic article when you have time. It really is so applicable.

  3. Facebook, and a few years ago Myspace, and sometimes texting has actually created closeness and more knowledge of each other with many other people. This is especially with me taking a year break with college then going to ones where I don't live in dorms and rather made most of my friends and acquaintances from local music shows, where I only saw the same people once every few weeks on average. In fact just texting a lot and looking at each other's facebooks was how my bf (whom I also met at a local music show) and I also got to know each other at first, especially with my work and living situation back then didn't allow us to see each other as much.

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