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The Great Disconnect: Technology and Real Life

Updated on February 10, 2011

Profiles and Punchlines

What does an online profile have in common with a punchline? They're only half of the whole, completely lacking in substance without the other half. A punchline is nothing without a joke or question and a profile is nothing without experiencing the person in a real way. In essence, you are trying to cross the finish line before beginning the race.

Years ago there was The Great Depression during which people actually connected more with their families and friends. They spent time with them and built relationships, forming a close community strong enough to endure their economic hardships.

Today, we are in another deep depression, but the downturn of the economy is the least of our worries. The most substantial concern here is what I'll simply refer to as The Great Disconnect. We'll eventually get over this economical crisis, but the disconnect between people is having lasting effects.

Where are we headed?

While technology continues to make it easier to "connect", it simultaneously, makes it easier for people to spread themselves thin, give away too much info, have less interaction with those in their immediate environment (family, etc), and experience people in a less personal/ real way. We may be connected through wires and world-class technology, but we are eliminating most of our natural abilities to truly connect.

You can argue that you've been able to deeply connect with people, such as those on hubpages and I have one very personal question for you- how old are you? The older generations already know how to truly connect with people because they've had in-person, real experiences do so. When older generations make friends online, they know how to get to know someone on a personal level because of that real life experience. Whereas younger generations don't have those experiences to draw from. They've grown up in the disconnect.

Entire generations will have issues connecting with someone in person. You can add to that, social problems, social withdrawal, and misread social cues. The younger folks currently have a hard time differentiating their real life from their online personas. Who you are is what your profile states and what anyone says about you on it. Instant gratification also means instant rejection.

Technology precedes coping abilities and experience for many of its users. The technology comes along that places everyone inside everyone else's lives and homes with no thought of how we deal with the consequences. It wasn't until experiences with online predators became commonplace when guides for parents were created.

I would love to see the continuation of new and exciting technology, but also along with awareness of consequences far preceding the technology. The creator of facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, reported not knowing what the consequences were or where it could lead to, even in the future. It's like watching a train wreck coming down the tracks.

Technology isn't as worthwhile if you don't have real life experiences to draw from. For example, if you participate in online dating, it won't be helpful if you don't have real experience with various types of people so that you can recognize those types online. There is also a disconnect between what older generations and parents know about the Internet compared to their tech savvy kids.

Online dating

In no other area of one's life is it more important to really know someone than when you are searching for love. How do people connect when utilizing online dating resources? Not enough people know the answer to this. View a person's online dating profile as a hand-shake or a "wink" and nothing more. Online chatting is simply first date chit-chat. Personal, in-depth conversations should be reserved for old the old fashioned ways- talking on the phone and in-person dates.


Virtual families
Virtual families
The real thing
The real thing

How to connect in a real way

Technology isn't the problem. The issues lie within the combination of technology and people. How capable are we setting limits and creating balance to maintain the very real human side of us. Technology has a way of building us up on the outside and therefore placing overall importance on that, rather than the closeness we were made for and inner enrichment.

  • If you must have an online profile, leave a little mystery and keep it fairly private. People would much rather belong to an exclusive group than one in which everyone is accepted with no discretion.
  • Your technology should match your needs. Don't buy the newest technology or participate in the newest online social groups without first deciding whether you need it. If it will actually help you in your life, and doesn't create a time suck, then you should consider it. If you don't have a job that requires it, you really don't need to be connected by mobile.
  • Don't lose touch with those who don't participate in online social websites. Take time to email them, send pictures and talk on the phone. One of my best friendships is with someone whom I have written, by pen and paper (remember that?) for over 20 years. She lives on a large farm and simply doesn't "do" technology (no need and no time), but I've kept that relationship strong and taken the time to write all these years.
  • Limit texting. Texting is extremely impersonal. Appropriate texting is short and sweet, not entire conversations. Almost no good has come of texting, especially while driving or dating.
  • State your standards. I let people know ahead of time, I don't text. I've stated my standards and people are aware of it. Sometimes I respond to a text, but people should know not to expect it.
  • Limit checking in on your social profile(s) if it's not necessary for your job. People can get addicted to profile scores, number of friends, and status updates. If you are checking them more than twice a day, you are likely yearning for a more intimate in-person or talking on the phone type of connection. People check their profiles so often, seeking what they are missing, which is a real connection or reassurance.
  • Become more fluent in tech speak and reading between the lines. What kind of status update is a call for help and possible suicide? Asking specifically what emotions someone is experiencing rather than relying on emoticons, etc.

How many hours a day do spend socializing online?

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    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Ryan-Palmsy~ Thanks for sharing your experience- it's so true what you say. It's ironic we seek companionship and friendship online to such a high degree (people constantly on fb and texting, etc) but if we got more in person, we'd need less online. Thanks for the comment

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      This is just so true! I can really identify with a lot of this hub, and it's really sad to see sometimes. As a teenager I know how much people really use social networking, and I also know how much people need it...Not much.

      Me and my girlfriend met online, so you may say "You can hardly talk" but since then I have had no reason to go online much. It's pointless, why seek the gratification I already have? There's no way to replace human contact

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Joshua Kell!

    • Joshua Kell profile image

      Levi Joshua Kell 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for the great hub. I know this behavior, well....

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Peter Owen~ I think we're definitely on the same page about all of this, even the obesity issues. I can already see the decline in the young workforce- they are absolutely unrelateable to customers and even text while at their jobs!

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      I'm glad more and more writings are coming out about this. they are starting to document the effects of this social media fanaticism on our youth. The grade school children have no social skills, and can't solve problems since they can't relate to them. What happens when these kids reach the working world? Can't negotiate, discuss, solve problems. And why do we keep reading all the questioning articles on why the kids are overweight? Everyone except the "experts" already know why. Competitveness of the American worker will drop dramatically.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thank you very much vydyulashashi.

    • vydyulashashi profile image

      vydyulashashi 6 years ago from Hyderabad,India

      Great info and tips to stay connected.

      God Bless You!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Leafy Den~ Yep we do have things in common because I like to do that too. Go somewhere and have friendly conversation with the staff at my favorite bookstore and cafe. I like being alone, so I know that some some people may not need constant social contact in person, BUT I go nuts if I don't get out or have some in-person contact regularly.

      I've always thought of my dad as a hermit, but I realized he goes out grocery shopping and out to eat a couple times a week so I know that's how he gets his contact. It really shows in the much younger generations that are now in the customer service industry and they have no clue how to deal with people. They actually text while at work,etc.

      Docmo~ perhaps. are we just getting older and now complain about the new and younger things. The phone probably had an invasive effect in people's homes and lives- good and bad. As I mentioned, I don't mind new technology, I just wish there was a way to start planing for the very real consequences (physically and psychologically) because so many have gotten hurt from things like facebook and having a good or bad rank or status everywhere. Kids and teens are the most involved in this technology and they are the most vulnerable, physically and psychologically. Like someone mentioned above, technology always precedes the morality of it's use. Thanks so much for adding a perspective here- great comment.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      A great and timely hub to reflect and consider the implications ( and the occasional shallowness) of modern technology. Do you think each generation had it's own 'modern technology'

      did parents warn their children on the dangers of 'writing letter's and 'love notes' and the shallowness of 'distant romances'? when the first dating started did Austen generations get warned that it will end in tears and you should quietly have an arranged matrimony?

      Brilliant analysis, btw!

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 6 years ago from the heart

      It's funny that we appear to have a few things in common - our psychology degrees and yes, I was a waitress. I know what you mean about the regulars who were solitary types. Now, I am the one that takes my notepad (or computer) to a cafe and sits in the corner and writes. The staff know me and I always enjoy having a chat with them. You are right, it so important to keep that in-person connection.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      thougtforce~ thanks for adding to the discussion. I completely agree. It's too much going on for most people and the stress is causing a lot of diseases that weren't typical of younger people. Facebook is proof what we see on the outside is not what is on the inside.

      Leafy Den~ That's funny, I was just making a comment to dahoglund when I realized you said almost the same thing to me as I said to him about being writers and solitary. I think the Internet is great for more solitary types who want to share their writing and would otherwise not. And you're right it should never replace going out and connecting with others too. I used to be a waitress and I waited on so many "regulars" that were solitray types but just coming and getting their meals and conversing with some of the staff was being social. It effects most people negatively if they don't get some sort of in-person conenction.

      dahoglund~ I think you connect good here on hubpages.Some of us, like myself, aren't that into connecting constantly and that's why I like this community because we all give and get from each other.

      Leafy Den~ I'll go check out that link.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      drbj~ good analogy and very true.

      Daveprice~ that's a bummer because it has some severe consequences that could be prevented.

      graceomalley~ I completely agree about the texting. I know a few 20 somethings that can't handle texting and emotions, etc.

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 6 years ago

      I for one am concerned about kids & socialization. I think the technology social interaction can be like candy - gives a buzz but no nutrician. Both my kids carry cell phones b/c I want to always be able to reach them, and for safety, but kids don't have the emotional maturity to handle texting. It's too easy to misunderstand a text.

    • DavePrice profile image

      DavePrice 6 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

      Technology always outpaces the morality of its use.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Friends on Facebook are not really friends; they are simply acquaintances. They might commiserate with you if by some chance you landed in jail after your too rowdy behavior at the local pub.

      But a true friend would be sitting right beside you in the cell, saying: "Didn't we have a great time last night?"

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 6 years ago from the heart

      Having now returned from the gym, my chiropractor appointment and shopping (mingling with people), I must confess that I was thinking about your hub while I was out and about. I was also thinking about how writing, by its very nature, is a very solitary act. It is easy to spend hours in front of the computer or with a pen and paper, writing at a desk or dining table.

      The Internet provides a way for solitary writer types to still interact with others even while confined to their writing space, but you are so right in that it can never be a substitute for true face-to-face or even voice-to-voice connection.

      What timing, this article came out today. On the surface, it may not seem relevant until you think about robots developing their own communication and society. The scary part is to wonder at which point the robot world and the human world are not all that different!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I am one of those older generation people but I still feel disconnected.

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 6 years ago from the heart

      After reading your brilliant (as usual) hub, I suddenly feel the need to go out into the real world and mingle with people. I'll write a proper comment when I return! :)

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

      I see the need for constant online connection like a typical sign of our way of living. We are supposed to be so much, do so much, work fulltime, take care of our family, exercise and be more social than ever before. And to stay connected online just adds to it, it is a show off! Update your status, look like you are on top of all things with photos from great journeys, parties and have many friends! To connect online is a great way to be updated on your friends, but with 1000 friends that has gone beyond common sense to the bizarre! You have done a great analysis of this topic and one can only hope that the generation growing up now and who are constant connected online will be able to make real friends nearby too! I see how my teenage daughter and her cell-phone are like they are glued together day and night with constant FB updates every second! But there is a real life out there that has to be lived, with real people, real friends, eye contact and hugs, and our beautiful nature!

      Sorry for the long comment, but this hub really got me going! As always, you have done a brilliant hub with focus on things that matters!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks for stopping by breakfastpop!I liek your statement about a false sense of connecting- I completely agree.

      robwrite~ "Our tech is moving faster than our emotional or intellectual ability to handle it wisely." couldn't have said it better myself. So true!

      Old poolman~ nice to see you here and thanks for the comment. You are right about the traits of a true friend and the younger generations aren't going to be able to experience that.

      shogan~ so true about trying to avoid the same people who magically appear out of the woodwork wanting to be friends on a social network. Thanks for the comment.

      stclairjack~ Thanks for the comment and nice to meet you. sounds like you use the power of social networking for good! I had the saem experiences with as you talk about with people in high school. And what you state in your last paragraph is great- about what an ounce of prevention would do compared to all the efforts that will be needed 20+ years down the road.

    • stclairjack profile image

      stclairjack 6 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      my first experience on face book sudenly had me getting friend requests from people i hadnt seen in 20 years,.... and for good reason, you didnt like me in high school, why do you need me now? oh yea, you want to hit 1000 friends by friday night.

      my FB allows me organize, its a means to an end. we all connect up and know where we're meeting for drinks and pool.

      you have made valid points here, i think it'll take 20 years to see the end result of the disconect. like you and others, i see the symptoms already, but the dissease will be full blown before the culture as a whole takes notice,... and we'll expend countless amounts of energy to cure what an ounce of prevention would have avoided.

      voted up, loved it.

    • shogan profile image

      shogan 6 years ago from New England

      Great hub, izztl. As someone who isn't involved with social networking at all, I feel gladly out of the loop. It seems to me that many of the people who contact you through Facebook are the same people you've been trying to avoid in the real world for years. ;)

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 6 years ago

      The true test of friendship will come when any of these facebooker's with 1000 friends have a problem they need help with. It is then they will find out how many of these 1000 names on their lists are true friends. True friendship is hard to define as it is more of a feeling than a tangible thing. In times of need you may find friends you didn't know you had, and those you thought were friends are nowhere to be found. I guess this is another of life's lessons that must be learned the hard way.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Excellent Hub on a very important issue. I agree with your points. Technology has moved passed being a necessary tool and into being an addiction. Our tech is moving faster than our emotional or intellectual ability to handle it wisely. I think its a serious social problem.


    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Terrific analysis of what I consider to be a major problem in society today. Having 1000 friends on facebook is meaningless, and sadly I think it gives so many people the false sense that they are really connecting to others. I find it all shallow and appalling. Voted up and useful.