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Technology and the value of respect - Jason A. Smith

People are so sensitive these days.

The idea of getting one's toes stepped on is nothing new, of course. But, in recent years, I've seen several friendships shattered over mere words and opinions.

I blame it on the Internet. The increasing prevalence of e-mails and social-networking sites, has reduced us to electronic forms of communication more often than not.

I was reminded of this recently when talking -- admittedly, online -- to a dear friend of nearly 20 years. She was upset because a friend of hers had "unfriended" her, which is Facebook-speak for removing someone from a list of contacts.

When I asked my friend why she had been removed, she told me it was because of a political opinion she had shared on her page.

It doesn't matter what that opinion was, or what prompted my friend to voice it. That's another discussion for another day.

The point is, my friend was tossed aside, on the basis of nothing more than a disagreement.

Similar things have happened to me before, like the time I had an ongoing debate with someone through a series of e-mails. As soon as I mentioned something the person didn't like, I was persona non grata from that point forward.

I can't help wondering whether our increased reliance on technology, has contributed to a fracturing of relationships because of a lack of true communication. We've somehow reduced ourselves to snapshots of each other's lives, by way of our computers, and the trend only seems to be getting worse.

Surely, there must be a solution. Do we just turn off our computers indefinitely, and close ourselves off from others, rather than risk being offended, or offending others?

I don't think that would work, nor is it practical in this day and time.

Should we only communicate with each other face to face, or on the telephone?

I don't think that will solve the problem, either. Technology has its place, and it's up to us to be good stewards of it.

I think it comes down to something which has been an issue in society, long before the advent of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. We have to treat each other, and each other's views, with respect.

No two people are going to agree about everything, every second of the day.

There are going to be times when we don't see eye to eye.

If we don't learn how to deal with those disagreements, and move forward, it won't matter how advanced we are from a technological standpoint, because we will still be a primitive society.

Jason A. Smith covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.