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 05.12.2019

The Internet Generation - How the digital age changes how People meet each other

Ever more fleeting relationships in a networked world

Hello from Düsseldorf! My name is Gerrit Neumann and I am a freelance copywriter. Communication is the be-all and end-all in my job, whether it's about using the right tone in a text or dealing with customers by yourself. Not everything will go brilliantly from the start. Some things are misunderstood, other things aren’t clarified exactly. If our expectations are not met, we will be disappointed. But from this, we can learn how to communicate better and more precisely in the future. This is all part of a learning process that each of us goes through. We learn to adjust to each other, to deal with misunderstandings and disappointments to ultimately make encounters with the People around us as positive as possible.

For me, the key to a happy life lies in encounters. We need to meet other People in our lives so we don’t feel lonely, and in order to feel needed, appreciated, and loved. Without such experiences, Humankind withers. I'm part of the Internet generation - the first generation to be fully captured by the digital revolution in the all-important formative years of youth. And I view the consequences with concern.

A text box does not replace a Human

I am convinced that the Internet has decisively shaped our communicative behavior. All of a sudden, we were able to communicate with someone far away with just one click, even if it only happens in the form of text boxes. But this is where the danger lies. There are so many things that we cannot communicate via a text box. Body language, tone, facial expressions ... all this is lost, and aids such as emojis do not change that much. The result? Misunderstandings. But even more than that: some People began to communicate primarily through text boxes. And so they had little chance of creating the experiences that we need in order to go through the learning process mentioned above.

Health in the digital age

But there’s another aspect which is perhaps even more dangerous: a text box can simply be clicked away. While we have to learn to deal with People whom we dislike when meeting them, we can easily get rid of them via the Internet. It is precisely this mentality that I now recognize in many People around me in other aspects of life. The keyword here is "ghosting" and today, it is being examined in terms of psychological behavior in studies like this: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0265407517748791

Here and there with one swipe

Just as fast as you can build a contact, you can break it off again - everything is possible with just one click. It has never been so easy to get to know new People as it is today. It is probably this perceived abundance that drives so many of my generation to build contacts that are ever more fleeting. Why tie yourself to one partner for life if the next candidate is just a swipe away? Why learn to cope with the negative aspects of a relationship when it’s so easy to just try again?

Healthy communication begins face to face

These are the aspects that make it increasingly difficult for many People to make compromises with each other nowadays. And why do so, when there is so much choice? At least, that seems to be the credo by which more and more People feel they live. Incidentally, the dilemma that wider choice could negatively impact our ability to assess decisions has been well-documented scientifically: https://faculty.washington.edu/jdb/345/345%20Articles/Iyengar%20%26%20Lepper%20(2000).pdf

Nothing can replace meeting People in Person - loneliness can make you ill

While some have abandoned initially stressful meetings with People in favor of simple but much less fulfilling Internet communication, and others treat their fellow Human beings like interchangeable pairs of shoes, one thing remains the same: if we don’t meet others in Person, we lose part of what makes us Human. This includes having patience and seeking compromise. It also means standing by others and helping them when they’re not doing well. Even if our first instinct might be to turn away from them in those moments.

Maintain health-promoting relationships: from PERSON to PERSON

It was when I talked to Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger about this topic that I really grasped for the first time, what effect our digitally stimulated communicative life can have on our health. Loneliness can make you ill. The two also go into this in their new YouTube video: "Communication, Love & Relationship – Important for your health!"

However, I do not want to make everything appear negative, because that would be presumptuous. Most People are still socially integrated nowadays. And then there is one more thing that gives me extra encouragement: I increasingly recognize how People rediscover the value of meeting People in Person for themselves. The text box will therefore also not replace Humans in the future.

The influence of new digital media on our coexistence

What do you think of the influence of new digital media on our coexistence? Have you noticed differences from the past? Or is it all not such a big problem from your point of view, but rather a great opportunity? I look forward to reading your opinions in the comments section!

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*important note: till now, the statements met here concerning the effect and the interdependencies of the therapies and means are not accepted generally among scientific experts,particularly the orthodox medicine.

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