In what was described as the first detailed survey of its kind, released last weekend, researchers reported that family life has not been weakened, as many had feared, by new technology. Rather, families have compensated for the stress and hurry of modern life with cell phone calls, e-mail and text messages and other new forms of communication.
“There had been some fears that the Internet had been taking people away from each other,” said Barry Wellman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the report, published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “We found just the opposite.”
In the poll, 60 percent of adults said that the new technologies did not affect the closeness of their family, while 25 percent said cell phones and online communication made their families closer and 11 percent said that the technology had a negative effect.
It’s easy to deplore anything new as the easy way out, to lean back against the wall of the hipster bar and cock your hat and talk longingly of the days when things werereal, man, when it was about the music, and whatnot. I think everybody who writes went through that phase where only a typewriter would do, because it made the teen angst poetry you were pounding out seem like elevated expressions of the darkness within us all, instead of just self-indulgent crap anybody and everybody scrawled in journals.
I’m as guilty of this as anybody else; I love my No. 9 Oliver typewriter that looks like something out of a steampunk fantasy and weighs as much as an anchor like I love my own left breast, but without e-mail and especailly Facebook, I’d have lost touch with half the people I know long ago. I save almost all of my e-mail like people used to save their letters; I don’t feel the words have any less value because I read them on a screen instead of on paper. And I’ll fight you to the death over whether print is dead (it isn’t, except in cases where it’s being murdered; more on that later this week) but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally turn on the wireless to get news through the airwaves. It’s not the tools. It’s the use to which you put them.