Stuart Woods


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(How) has technology changed the way we love?

Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of message without the physical exchange of an object bearing the message. The use of smoke signals, beacons, reflected light signals, and flag semaphore signals are early examples. In the 1800s, the harnessing of electricity brought about the means to transmit signals via electrical telegraph. The advent of radio in the early 1900s brought about radio-telegraphy and other forms of wireless telegraphy. In the internet age, telegraphic means developed greatly in sophistication and ease of use, with natural language interfaces that hide the underlying code, allowing such technologies as electronic mail and instant messaging.

I'm interested in whether people think technology has changed the way we love or (at least) communicate love.

The telegraph is known as the 'Victorian Internet' and reputedly changed the way the upper classes (it was too expensive for middle and lower classes to use initially) expressed love.

Will recent and potential new technologies change we way we love each other? IF SO HOW?

I'd be equally fascinated in hearing theories and examples.

Has instant messaging made it easier to put more into the meaning of the message or has the message content been diminished by such a available medium?

Incidentally, I can't find a record of the earliest sent electronic expression of love and how it was received.

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    Apr 30 2012: In antiqity (as little as 100 yrs ago) when you wanted to express love, court, marry, have sex with someone...You were pretty much limited, generaly speaking, to those closest to home. I supose that any one outside a 10-25 mile radius of your locale would generaly been unknown to you. This over long periods of time would lead to an inbreeding of sorts. With the advance of technology we can expand our horizons and find "Love" in all sorts of places.
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    Apr 29 2012: With a day to go, I reflected on the number of responses to my question. Normally overwhelmed and invigorated by people's contributions I then checked the other responses linked to the word LOVE and found, surprisingly, that almost all of them have the fewest responses to ANY of the questions posed on TED. It makes me think, is love just too big a question for us? With so many amazing viewpoints out there on TED, does this subject simply stump us? does it reflect our reverence to it or our fear of addressing what it means for us (individually) in case someone (inevitably) thinks it's something different and we so we question what we have always thought or 'known'. Does love render our developed self silent?
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    Apr 22 2012: In their book Life's a Pitch, Stephen Bayley & Roger Mavity say ' technology has achieved soulless efficiency...something too precise in every part. E mail is a cold convenience and a hot curse. Too many and you feel put upon. Not enough and you feel neglected. And as in sex and food with letters slow is better than fast. Nancy Mitford thought air mail showed a ungentlemanly sense of urgency. E mail is intrusive, peremptory and demanding if addictive. And something about it-perhaps the immediacy-seems positively to inhibit literacy and elegance.'

    Does E mail succeed, in the same way paper letters used to, make human relations concrete?
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    Apr 17 2012: Society is on it ways to have a huge disconnect when it comes to emotions. It reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.We will have a society that will revolve around a routine without any abstract ideas. We have become so dependant on gadgets and lets face it... As much as you talk to a person via e-mail/text message, you are missing out on emotion. emotes can not define the way a person is represented it helps but you are missing that connection. When we think of love we think of how someone is willing to travel a great distance to confirm love. Skyping someone gives you a face to communicate with but the feeling of having a physical being present makes interaction worthwhile. The Internet as it has been stated many times before creates an enviroment for infedelity. I know not everyone uses it for this purposes, but as a result it is harder to love when you have a sense that the person you are talking to..that you are in love with could easily be having the same type of conversation with another person that is not you.I feel like courtship and the chase have lost alot of its position in falling in love.Finding love(sometimes mistaken for lust) is not as hard and in most cases the foundations arent as sturdy...they feel rushed. My thoughts on love are always evolving and posing this question is in fact a great idea!
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      Apr 20 2012: Jonathan, thank you, very thought provoking response. The notion of courtship, I agree, has changed almost beyond recognition in the last few decades. Yes, I know what you mean, ' the chase' you mention certainly has changed in dynamic too. I'm glad you brought up Skype too, many think this is the answer to long a distance relationship or connecting more authentically with people, than say, telephone. I recognise it's appeal but agree with you, I can't help feeling there's missing something.By reading your response I get the sense that you value the direct (in person) human interaction and the, importantly, the countless nuances which form to make a relationship with an individual.
  • Apr 17 2012: Well this may be embarrasing at some point but i must share my thoughts about this.
    Internet has definetly changed the way we "love" or stablish contact with people, and if this contact has a good effect in us then love may happen. The new technologies allow us to transmit our messages instantly, In the past if your sweetheart was in Europe and you had no acces to telegraph you wrote a letter that took a month or maybe more to reach her. Now you can write to someone that is in China all night through skype or messenger or whatever you use. I have witnessed personally how dozens of realationships end and start thanks to the efficiency of the internet , in fact my actual relationship is with someone i met through a chat room and after so many years we are still together. But it may not be also about love, counseling, knowledge, any idea, instead of traveling 3 months by boat or instead of stand by someone who must decypher electric pulses that come through the telegaph wires, you only turn on your computer or mobile device and you have an open channel to the one you love. But i think that this are only tools and that nothing will ever replace the joy we experience with personal contact.
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      Apr 20 2012: Roberto, thanks for starting this conversation going. You present a balanced view and very compelling evidence. I like your reference to the immediacy of contact with a loved one; so true.