In recent weeks, "my kids" in the office are coming in with all of their college acceptances. Many of them are experiencing mixed emotions because choosing a school to attend also means a huge change in their life. The excitement is often tainted by the sadness of being away from their friends, girlfriend or boyfriend -- and yes, sometimes, even their families! Many of the adults I work with are also separated from family members, friends, and partners. With family members moving to where the jobs are, and the nature of a global economy responsible for corporate moves, family and friends can end up all over the country and even the world. But long-distance relationships have become far more manageable thanks to mobile phone technology and the Internet. Try to remember what it was like, if you can, before these technologies. Connecting by phone was often expensive and difficult due to time zone differences. The landline and snail mail were really the only means of communicating.
Today, you can text, Facetime, Skype, post on Facebook, message on Facebook, Instagram, iChat, email, and more. You can do it from wherever you are at any time of day or night using your cell phone, smart phone, iPad, tablet, iTouch, or laptop. Not only do you have many more vehicles to be able to communicate and connect with long-distance relationships, you can do it for free, instantly, constantly, and conveniently. The intersection of your lives is no longer limited to voice or the written word. Videos and pictures can be sent instantly using several cyber and electronic devices. You can share your life and events as big as your child's birth, and as small as a great meal or good laugh you just had. It's the next-best thing to being there. You can really be a part of each other's life in an involved way that diminishes the thousands of miles of geographic expanse.
The frequent, visual, and instantaneous sharing of each other's life enables you to remain "present" in each other's world so that when you do have face-to-face contact, there will not be this cavern of lost time and events between the two of you. Relationships are about sharing. In today's world, sharing can be accomplished even if you are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles.
Of course, nothing replaces the closeness, feeling of personal warmth, the human touch, and overall experience that a face-to-face relationship brings. It is when the in-person experience is not available that usurping the power of technology can be the next best thing.
Dr. Osit is a psychologist and author of Generation Text: Raising Well Adjusted Kids In An Age Of Instant Everything. Dr. Osit has offices in Warren and Morristown, NJ.
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