Are You Reddy or Are You Ready?

Research indicates that one in five romantic relationships start online. Too bad they stay there and eventually die there. The problem is that if a relationship exists only in one domain, it will likely die on the vine. The same analogy can be applied to new technologies, modes of communication and more. But the fact is that human relationships are far more interesting and personal than any other topic studied by super smart researchers today. And the reason why we continue to see "new" research about relationships is that we will never figure it out. But we are damned if we don't continue to try.

NPR recently ran a feature on how social networking - particularly texting and internet-based telephone services - has affected the Peace Corp Experience. This is interesting and timely because the Peace Corps is celebrating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. And our world, thanks to technology, is becoming smaller and smaller. For the Peace Corps volunteers stationed all over the globe, this is particularly important. Social networking mobility has offered up great things to the folks who spend months away from friends and family and in the past they were relegated to waiting and wanting. Now they can pick up a phone, Skype away and text at all hours of the night. Oh, and by the way, they can pick up a phone, Skype away and text at all hours of the night, too. What am I saying? According to the NPR feature, it's a double-edge sword, this little thing called love, er, technology.
Because when we used to be forced out into the world we usually came back a better person. As these Peace Corp workers are learning, people will seek out comfort and friendship when there is none. So, without the internet or mobile phones, they were out meeting new people, working their way though local happenings and community activities. Now, with technology as their little friend, they are having difficulty getting out there and mingling among the locals...which is kind of a necessary thing to experience the real Peace Corp experience. Another unforseen drawback for wide-reaching social media capabilities offered to these once isolated students of global peace-keeping operations is that the administrative office has now become less efficient and undervalued. Here is what John Reddy, a Peace Corps Rwanda County director told NPR:

"If a volunteer is telling their family they're having a bad day or a bad week, and then the family member calls Peace Corps Washington and Peace Corps Washington calls me ... I have to find the volunteer and see what the problem was," he says.
Reddy has spent nearly a quarter of a century working for the Peace Corps in Africa. He says before the Internet, Peace Corps staffers had more independence.
"Personally, I think there's a lot more micromanagement from Washington than there used to be," he says. "I sort of long for the days before the Internet and good phone service."

With yesterday's announcement of Google Talk, Reddy may not be ready for what we all think of when we ask for "good phone service," but he'll likely make do. This form of merging human emotions and needs with online activity will certinaly continue to grow. On a sidenote, I am sooooo looking forward to the day that my first grader texts me about how awful her teacher is or about how she just sent a photo of her lunch to the local newspaper to illustrate how mistreated they are as a student population. Strike that. I will never be ready for that. No one can be.

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