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Why do personal relationships matter in the digital world?

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The most important competence in a world dominated by new technologies will remain the ability to create real, not virtual bonds. A real – not virtual – relationship will become a counterbalance to the world of robots, artificial intelligence or augmented reality.

Reflecting on the simple answer to the question contained in the proposed title, I immediately thought of the words spoken by Jesper Juul, a Danish psychologist, who indicated in one of his lectures:

For a brief moment, we hoped that emails, chats, and Skype could make up for our physical remoteness. Unfortunately, they cannot. These are very valuable tools, but they prove themselves primarily at work, and in relationships based on love, they are only a meager substitute for contact.

The benefits of good relationships with others

Searching for traces of the presence of such thinking, I came across a few quite important threads confirming the words uttered by Juul. My research concerns not only the parent-child relationship (although I consider this relationship to be crucial for the conscious and safe use of network resources), but also relationships as such. Why are personal relationships so important in the digital world?

Good relationships mean a happy life

The results of what is probably the longest-running research among the same group of people (Harvard Second Generation Study) indicate that thanks to being in good relations with others, we live longer and the aging process is healthier. The current research director – prof. Robert J. Waldinger – in one of his speeches also adds that the relationships in which we stay at the age of 40-50 will have an impact on the condition of our brain functioning in our old age.

Good relations are our atavistic need

This was also understood by those who built their business model by establishing special centers for cuddling with others, – the first professional cuddling salon in Poland. As the owners indicate, there are many benefits of hugging another person. It has a positive effect on our autonomic nervous system, increases the secretion of serotonin, known as the “happiness hormone”, and oxytocin, and helps to forget about loneliness and the feeling of isolation.

Hugging is a natural antidepressant, it improves our mood and makes us feel joyful. It also has a positive effect on the body’s immunity and maintaining good health, and reduces the risk of catching the flu or colds.

Good relationships – an antidote to e-addiction

This thesis, repeated often by psychotherapists of psychoactive substances addiction, is more increasingly being cited in the case of behavioral addictions. Even if we fail to protect against the problem of abuse of new technologies or their misuse, it is worth having a loved one with you who you can turn to for help if necessary.

Unfortunately, the research conducted by the Dbam o Mój Z@sięg Foundation shows that 26 percent of adolescents could not turn to their parents for help if they came across some important problem on the Internet that would concern them specifically.


Good relations and creativity in the network

Apart from other factors – users’ motivation, their competences and the influence of others – good relations and a properly built world of values will be the factors that regulate our use of network resources. A wide range of real – not virtual – contacts with others, experiencing real life together, spending free time build in us such prosocial values as altruism or trust in others. If we are guided by such values in the real world, we will reach for them often also using the digital resources of the Internet.

Good relations as an alternative to the digital world

As it often turns out, the problem with the abuse of new technologies begins when the only world available to us is the digital world. If we fail to build an alternative, there is a high probability that we will spend every free moment using the resources of the network. The alternative to the digital world – the most important during childhood and adolescence – leads to a balance in the use of digital screen tools.

Finally, it is worth remembering that it is not the digital media that destroys relationships, but rather the weak ties or their absence that open up space for being online, which is in fact alien to humans. So the Internet itself and its use does not seem to destroy our relationships, but it certainly fills the void perfectly when we feel lonely and bad.