We hear a lot about the negative effects of electronic communication.
We’re always reading warnings about how it cuts us off from “real” relationships. One of the best examples I’ve seen lately is a three-minute video called “Can We Autocorrect Humanity?” by Prince Ea.
It is a creative and impassioned plea to connect with each other again. I agreed with every word.
And, while electronic communication definitely separates us from face-to-face, body-to-body, touch-to-touch encounters, there is another side to be seen.
Some of my favorite books of all time were the four in the . The main “character” is the city of Alexandria, set around the time of WWII Egypt. All of the books had a profound effect on me, but each in a quite different way. (And, yes, this is related to electronic communication.)
In the third, Mountolive, the title character is a young British diplomat that falls deeply in love with a woman (Leila) older than himself. Through circumstance, they part.
He comes back years later to find she is alone except for a few servants.
She has taken the veil of Muslim women, though she had never worn one before. She sits in compete seclusion of her filmy dark mask and garden wall, feeding dishes of milk to her tame cobra, while writing letters to old friends. The Muslim restrictions of seclusion and anonymity that she rejected years before had become her best friends and saviors, since her face was ravaged by age and small pox.
Sounds like a grade B movie when I write about it but the author’s skills make it quite powerful.
In spite of the fact there are some today that send photographic selfies of isolated and very personal body parts, there is also now a faction that has taken the electronic veil.
I snail mail one friend that I haven’t seen for decades. And, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t so much as seen a photo of me since those long distant times. For nearly all the time since we parted, he has lived off the grid and would go into town, twenty miles away, no more than once a week for supplies and mail. I still sit at my computer and write the letters that I print off and mail to him— an inadvertent veil of electronics and distance.
My communication with a handful others is fully intentionally from behind the electronic veil of cyberspace. I would not share anything with them otherwise. The reasons vary and, for the point here, are irrelevant.
I spent many years living overseas. In some places, even phone calls were nearly impossible. To stay in touch with friends and family, I laboriously wrote out (banged out with necessary force) letters on a manual typewriter, stuffed with three sheets of carbon paper and four sheets of typing paper at a time. Would cyber communication have kept us more apart? Been less of a real relationship? I think not.
Like any object, electronic communication is devoid of inherit good or evil, benefits and hinderances. It is the people who use it that infuse meaning and judgement into it.
I don’t put highly personal information out there nor do I tell would-be thieves when I am away from home. I don’t post photos of my last snack. I also find it nothing short of tedious to read such information from others.
But neither can I, nor should we, forget the newfound closeness in relationships that electronic communication makes possible. I have talked to a granddaughter “live” in “real” time—she lives 1000 miles away. I keep in touch with several friends across the globe. And in “real time,” no less!
I have researched treatments for illnesses, pin-pointed the location of a natural disaster in relationship to a friend’s home, published a book, identified birds that come to the bird-feeder and even written articles like this for on-line sites.
When physical maladies have restricted my usual activities, it has kept me entertained and intellectually stimulated. I cannot be the only person who no longer (or never could) hop a plane, run next door or leave town at the drop of a hat to connect on a personal level—to touch a loved one’s cheek—no matter how strong the desire.
A veil of separation or an unprecedented personal connection—as it turns out, cyber communication, like everything else, is what you make of it.
~Author: Betty Vania
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock