The Internet Gets Physical

By Katie Funk

Phone calls replaced face-to-face talking, texting replaced phone calls, facebook replaced texting.  Technology has undoubtedly reinvented how we talk to each other, but nobody has really tried to recreate actual physical interaction . . . until now. A researcher in Japan has invented a machine that emulates kissing! The creation aims to help long-distance couples connect through cyberspace.  Connected to the Internet, one partner manipulates a gadget with their mouth while the other receives the movement on his or her own device.

I mean, I guess we should have seen this coming, considering all the winks, pokes, and cyber-lovin’ options we have on facebook and dating sites. But no matter how I look at this next level of social media, I cannot help but be extremely disturbed.  How is it at all possible for a plastic machine to in any way replace kissing! After all, the pushing back and forth of someone else’s tongue is not exactly why people engage in the act of kissing in the first place. It’s about the irreplaceable intimacy that we experience when we can literally feel and touch the person we love. And I don’t think any machine can truly begin to make up for that. Then again, all of this was said about texting and tweeting right before that basically took over our entire social lives.

So maybe it’s inevitable that after technology has created second best to in-person talking, it will soon serve as an alternative to touch as well. The argument will be that while nothing can really replace a kiss, what’s so wrong with trying to create some of what is missing in a long-distance relationship? Maybe “what’s wrong” is that we are all settling for these second-best options instead of making the little extra effort for the real stuff. Why do I call my brother to ask what he wants for dinner when he is only 20 feet away in his room upstairs? Because it’s just easier. I saved the pathetically small amount of energy it would have taken to walk up the stairs, but I missed seeing a human face a hearing a voice that didn’t come out a speaker. Yet, we continue to opt for whatever is easier.

Obviously technology has immense benefits and can really add to the social lives of people, but we have to remain aware that it is only a facilitator for our relationships; it isn’t a replacement for kissing your girlfriend or hearing your brother’s voice in person. But who knows? Maybe I’ll be cyber-slapping myself later for saying that.

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