If I ever harbored any doubt that the physical world is sidling over to the virtual, two news items have erased, once and for all, those reservations. The keypad and screen are about to replace the gentle voice and the concerned countenance of a real, live person across the table. Not to sound alarmist, but that day is nigh.
Consider this: A
And this: You can now find a date by app. One app uses Global Positioning System technology to find an interested single near your favorite hangout. Another, OmniDate, lets a user employ an animated avatar to appear in an animated chat room for a first date. There are also in-app purchases for virtual gifts like candy hearts and teddy bears. (An admission is necessary here. I was forwarded a teddy bear for
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Confessing -- the act of admitting you've done something wrong, expressing true contrition and then vowing to not do it again -- is not an easy process even for the most faithful. A 2008 study by the
Dating is also difficult, if for different reasons. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to take a risk, to face rejection can be painful, not unlike submitting to dental work without Novocaine. It's safer, as a friend once told me, to stay home and ignore the stirrings of one's heart. The television or a rented movie rarely leaves you raw and aching.
Whether it's confessing, looking for love, or keeping in touch with friends, technology has granted us the ability to shrink distance and flatten obstacles, to smooth the invariably bumpy way of interpersonal relations. The confession app, for instance, provides a "custom examination of conscience based upon age, sex and vocation (single, married, priest or religious)." It also gives you the option "to add sins not listed in the standard examination of conscience."
Tap the "Examination" icon (a magnifying glass) and peruse a list of the Ten Commandments, which in turn ask a series of probing questions. If you're into this kind of thing, the specificity is quite helpful to narrow down exactly what you've done wrong.
Not everybody is interested in 'fessing up, of course. But plenty of people might want to use another app -- the one that allows you to check out the compatibility of a first date. As an avatar in a chat room, the exit is a handy-dandy click away. No need to exercise manners.
But by allowing us to limit our exposure -- not a bad thing on its face -- high tech has armed us with a dangerously shallow alternative. Examining your conscience isn't the same as looking up movie times, and virtual candy hearts will never taste like chocolate truffles. The screen should be the prompter, the ice-breaker, the facilitator: nothing more.
As the co-founder of the animated avatar site told a
Quite simply, there's no substitute for the real thing.
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