COLUMN:Technological advances putting an end to personal relationships

Blaine Moyle

We see computers almost every day, and use them almost as often.

Given the history of the campus this is hardly anything to be thought of as odd.

They have become unquestioned in their use in school because of the revolutions they have made in teaching students, to the point where there is almost a computer in every classroom.

This all seems well and good at first.

But what role do these computers really play in our schools?

Showing up in the mid ’80s, they were usually used for fun math programs.

Who could forget the game where, after answering enough questions correctly, you were allowed to build your own monster, or watched the man in his spaceship take off?

It was astounding; it was a way to get kids to learn and they were having a good time doing it.

So it had begun; a wave of pro-computer enthusiasts sprung up telling how America’s youth needed these computers to be able to keep up with students in other countries.

It wasn’t fast, though, and the next few years were little more than the same programs of Mr. Joel’s Math Fun.

By this time, however, many were already hooked.

As the 1990’s began, a car in every garage and chicken in every pot also included a computer in every family room.

And then, along came AOL. Still before the takeover, it began showing up more and more in homes around the country.

Now it was possible for communication with relatives that lived in far-away states without having to spend the money on long-distance calls with the overly chatty family.

By February 1996, AOL was 5 million members strong.

Chat rooms were becoming more common lingo as people found a way to talk with people they had never met before living anywhere across the country.

This progression has continued on to today, where most of the 20 somethings in America are familiar with instant messages, message boards, Web browsing, flame wars and more. The list goes on.

The problem was that in our rush to become more technologically savvy and able to talk to someone far away that we haven’t even met, the local ties and communication between individuals has broken down.

It has come to the point where some people feel more comfortable talking to people online than they do in person.

These people tend to claim that they talk to more people now than they ever have before.

The only problem with this is that while their minor communication relationships are numerous, their more important close relationships with family and friends crumble.

And it’s not just talking to strangers that is the problem.

Even now e-mailing family members is no replacement for the more intimate contact of actually calling that person to hear his or her voice, rather than be words on a screen.

Just as it is told in Tool’s song “Schizm,” we are in a unique position where we have seen the Internet come into vogue as we grew up, and are the last generation that can say, “when I grew up we didn’t have the Internet.”

Now it’s in schools all the way down to the elementary level.

While there are safeguards on specific sites and no chatting allowed, the students are still coming to rely heavily on the Net to escape from what they know.

It’s come to a point where teenage boys and girls will say, “but if I don’t get online how am I supposed to meet members of the opposite sex?”

Even now on campus this problem can be seen on StrangeTalk, where people complain about how hard it is to meet people on campus.

Totally ignoring the prospect of attending campus events, or talking to people in their classes, or just across the hall from them.

None of this is to say that chat rooms, instant messages or message boards are inherently bad.

I too find myself guilty of spending more time than I should, but I try to stay within reasonable limits.

It’s good to get to know different people from all over the world.

But we need to keep in mind that the friends we make over the Internet can’t take us to the hospital if we get injured.

They can’t offer a shoulder to cry on when something happens in our life.

For the important things in our lives we need to keep a hold on our real friends and family, which can be something like a handwritten card or letter, or even just a phone call to say “hi, we haven’t talked in a while.”

Blaine Moyle is a junior in English from Des Moines.