Sunday, June 28, 2009

Technology and Boundaries


I'm working on a way to make this post about psychiatry. Sort of getting there.
In today's NY Times Magazine, Peggy Orenstein notes in "The Way We Live Now--The Overextended Family," that she doesn't want to Skype videochat with her parents. Too much intrusion, there need to be some boundaries. Orenstein likes sending digital pictures, she doesn't like email. And somehow, she's aware that while she's not sure she wants to videochat with her folks, she recognizes that she might want to chat with her kids.

To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles — instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.

She goes on to write:

Video chat, while obviously cheaper, would seem to have the same skewed ratio: too much access, too little control. But that’s speaking from the standpoint of a daughter. My perspective shifts significantly — as it does on so many subjects — when I mull this one over as a mother. It’s one thing to consider how much about me my parents have a right to know; it’s another to contemplate how much about my daughter I have a right to know — or even want to know.

I suppose the article caught my attention because I have a couple of those teenager people. One goes to college a half a country away, and when I suggested we videochat, I was told he doesn't do that. He'll email, he'll talk (actually, it's more grunting), and the most reliable form of communication is the text message, but he's not interested in IM-ing me, videochatting, or being my friend on Facebook. He doesn't follow me on twitter, and somehow I doubt he reads Shrink Rap.

So the psychiatry tie in? Oh, Roy would feel no need to look for one. This time, I'll let it go.