Young girl talking on street using her cell phone. (File photo)
Traditionally, young people develop and keep relationships regular exchanges of communication or social interactions. Initial factors that bring young people together: common interests, sports, work, physical attraction/charm, lose power over time. To keep a relationship a young person gradually grows to like those he or she communicates and spends time with and this creates further companionship. Moreover, physical proximity increases the likelihood of friendships and romantic relationships.
But with the advent of the Internet and all these fancy components in cell phones, modern Chinese youth is no longer as focused on face-to-face communications. Phone, e-mail, and IM are the three main telecommunication technologies used by young consumers; each has a different kind of social interface. They are not equally useful for building and maintaining social relationships and none is as effective toward emotional maturity as communicating face-to-face.
Telecommunications technologies do affect friendships -- positively and negatively. The Internet and mobile phones can link people who are far apart and allow friends to sustain a relationship, the more the communication the less likely the decline in the relationship. But social relationships that are developed and maintained using communications technologies do not have the depth or rate of emotional growth of direct face-to-face encounters. Remembering Mumford and McLuhan's admonitions may be not only timely but also wise, given that mobile technology seems to be moving forward faster than human evolution.
(China.org.cn June 25, 2008)