How has technology changed relationships and interactions between people?


Evolution of relationships
Before the advent of data transmission over the Internet, communications were expensive and difficult to carry out. And contact with people living in remote areas was a challenge. Many of the relationships were based on the strength of trust.

I remember telephone conversations where a mechanical voice said: “The user is not available.” And, without further ado, the call was cut off. So, while you waited to call back, you imagined where, with whom, and what that person was doing.

Three decades have been enough for the inexhaustible capacity of digital technology to burst in and transform “that unavailable user” into a hyperconnected being. Now communications are instantaneous, ubiquitous and multiplatform. And the way we relate, behave and think has changed.

Checking our Instagram feed, Twitter timeline or LinkedIn posts before eating breakfast has become a habit for many of us. According to the Digital 2022 report , 87.1% of the Spanish population invests almost 2 hours a day on social networks. We make up a region with 40.7 million users of instant messaging applications to stay connected with family, friends and co-workers.

In this new paradigm, social networks have ceased to be mere communication tools and have become vectors of social influence and catalysts for new business models.

The most used online platforms make up a long list that may vary depending on the region and the target audience:

Social networks: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok
Instant messaging: WhatsApp, Telegram
Video calls: Zoom, Skype, Google Meet
Online games: Fortnite, Minecraft, LOL
Facebook was founded in 2004 and is the largest social network with 2.958 million active users.

YouTube is the leading platform for sharing and watching videos. Its more than 2.5 billion active users also use it as a search engine.

Instagram is the social network where 2 billion active users share photos and videos.

WhatsApp. The popular instant messaging application with 2 billion active users.

TikTok. Teens’ favorite short video sharing app with 1 billion active users and more is growing.

WeChat is, with its 1.3 billion active users, the reference application in Asia.

Twitter is the microblogging platform par excellence. Its 556 million active users can share short messages and updates in real time.


Impact on relationships
The way in which people interact has changed to integrate a virtual environment. In many cases reaching an imbalance where face-to-face relationships take a backseat. And the impact on privacy and personal security is real.

Representation of current relationships where father and son are together but without interacting

For example, smart devices have penetrated homes and workplaces, posing, if proper precautions are not taken, an invasion of privacy. Even when we are on the street, traveling by means of transport or accessing public buildings, we are subject to unsolicited surveillance which, although legal, can in many cases affect our information and expose our data.

Furthermore, mental health will depend a lot on the active or passive use we make of social networks. Active use such as exchanging private messages or writing a post. While passive use refers to observing the online activity of others without participating in a direct conversation.

In the long term, this second option of use harms health. Although in general, the more hours you spend in front of an online platform, the more likely you are to develop negative aspects such as:

Technology and screen addiction
Loss of social and interpersonal skills
Difficulty establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships
Increased social comparison and isolation
Increased exposure to false information and disinformation
Disruption of attention and ability to concentrate.
Symptoms that are aggravated when a minor participates in these social networks. And that in many cases materializes when they receive their first mobile phone. A gift that should include a guide like the one that the Spanish Data Protection Agency launched for the More than a mobile campaign .

The debate between whether these technologies are harmful or advance society will continue. And our collective commitment begins with being aware of how we interact with social networks and being responsible when participating in the digital world.

Identity and private life on social networks
However, the great convening power that platforms achieve is undeniable.

For example, Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 39,000 meters high. The famous Space Jump brought together 8 million people on YouTube who waited patiently to see how it broke the sound barrier.

Or the live events offered by online platforms like Fortnite. Where millions of young people meet with other players, who they have met in this form of metaverse, to attend concerts like Mashmello, Travis Scott or Ariana Grande.

Experiences that will remain in the memory of many young people like their first virtual concert , but that for them were very real. Since, from the privacy of their home, they were able to share and comment on every moment live.

This must be the reason why the video game industry earns more than film and music combined.

But communication experiences on social networks are not limited to leisure. Everything you share on the internet is subject to scrutiny. If not, tell it to the British Prime Minister who was fined for appearing without a seat belt in his vehicle while posting a video on Instagram.

Love relationships do not escape this new way of interpreting the world either. The ways of flirting are shaped by new technologies. Even when you already have a partner and you notice that they do not publish your relationship on social networks, you can become suspicious that something is happening.

The debate between whether these technologies are harmful or advance society will continue. And with it the ways of relating in the future will continue to change. We just have to make sure they evolve for the better.


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