With technology growing do you believe that significant social relationships can develop with someone you have never met? Is there value in online relationships for elders, even though they could...

With technology growing do you believe that significant social relationships can develop with someone you have never met? Is there value in online relationships for elders, even though they could lead to more loss?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that significant relationships can be formed with people that one has not actually met.  I further believe that such relationships can be beneficial to elders.  The idea that relationships should not be formed because of the potential for loss does not seem to me to be a legitimate one.

I believe that relationships that only exist online can be significant.  In many ways, most relationships do not depend on face-to-face interaction.  When, for example, we go out with our friends, what we are essentially doing is talking to them.  We are not really needing to touch them or look at their faces.  Our relationship consists largely of verbal communication.  With our current technology, we can have plenty of verbal communication with people that we have never met in person.  We can use text messages and emails.  Even better, we can use things like Skype or FaceTime to actually speak to and see other people in real time.  Given that these technologies are available, there seems to me to be very little need to have actually met someone in person in order to have a meaningful relationship.

As for the issue of seniors forming relationships, we can simply refer to the idea that “’tis better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all.”  In our human existence, we know that all of our relationships will eventually come to an end.  The older we are, the sooner these relationships will end.  If we are to avoid losing people who are dear to us, the only thing that we can do is to avoid having any close relationships.  This is clearly not a viable alternative.  It is much better for elders to have relationships that can enrich their lives than for them to lead empty and lonely lives.  This is true even if their friendships are inevitably going to lead to loss. 

rachellopez | Student

I believe that online relationships can be significant. A relationship requires a lot of communication which you definitely can do through online chats. However, it would be different because you can't really see each other face to face. You can use skype or other video communication.

As for elders it would be the same way. Everyone would feel the same if they lost someone even from an online relationship. It can still be good for someone who is older to find someone they have strong feelings for via the Internet.

CaitlynnReeves | Student

I do not believe that online relationships are valueless. However, I believe they are diferent from face to face relationships and should therefore hold a different weight. 

Human beings have developed the ablility to communicate through text. This communication is valuable and we can become attatched to the ideas that are expressed through writing. I think we become attatched to people we have never met the way we become attatched to characters in our favorite book; we love the idea of them, we love what we create in our minds. While certain aspects and characteristics of the relationship may be imagined, the emotion is real. In that respect I would call online relationships significant.

parama9000 | Student

However, the closeness of human to human interaction, the intimate distance between two people, cannot be replicated with the use of technology.Thus I don't think significant relationships can be built with technology. 

eli468 | Student

There have been studies conducted that have shown that significant social relationships can be developed through people who have never met face-to-face. One study in particular (the one I have linked below) showed how people felt more comfortable talking to people online and developed actual friendships that not only were significant but lasted for at least two years after meeting online. It also showed through a lab experiment that undergraduates liked it more when they met someone first on the internet rather than meeting face-to-face at first. 

One reason why people feel like meeting on the internet can create good relationships is because someone can be their "true" self without feeling like they have to put up as much of a front, if any. If someone can be themselves then they can feel more accepted and comfortable with the person online and can therefore create very close, significant relationships that can be long lasting.

There is value in online relationships for elderly people because it can give them a chance, like anyone else, to socialize and be themselves. It can be difficult finding someone who you can communicate with easily and learn from if you are not able to leave the house very much or are in a nursing home surrounded by the same people all the time from similar age ranges. By being able to interact with people of different ages, cultures, etc. or of the same age online, they can build relationships they enjoy a lot more because they can choose who they continue talking to rather than being around the same people. Just because it could lead to more loss doesn't mean that creating relationships becomes useless. There is a chance to lose someone at any moment, regardless of age. Elderly people can still build enjoyable relationships or meet new people online that are worthwhile whether it's for a short period of time or not.

mchandrea | Student

Technology is growing at a very fast rate. Within the last 20 years, we have made more ways of "meeting" new people. We are now experiencing things that were impossible for the previous generations. From our daily text messaging down to video conferencing, it is very much possible to build a significant social relationship with someone you haven't met personally.

For example, you met a stranger through a chatroom and you talk about yourself. You instantly just match up with everything and start chatting with one another everyday. You could consider this person a friend although you live halfway across the globe. I believe this is also how online dating works. The downside would be that the other person could be lying about everything and you won't even know about it.

There is a value for online relationships even and most especially for elders and I don't think it leads to more loss. By relationship, it doesn't necessarily have to mean in a romantic way, it could refer to any kind of connection with other people. Take familial relationship for example, a grandmother who lives in the west coast can now watch and see and talk with her grandchildren who lives in the east coast. The grandmother can have a good relationship with her grandchildren without personally seeing them. This is an upside of technology. And this is a very valuable relationship.