After the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), Skype, was down for two days last week, and the usual plethora of family phone calls on Christmas day, I really enjoyed the article written by Aleks Krotoski from the Gaurdian asking whether the internet is really killing family life?
She questions whether “Grandma's on the Xbox, Mum's following family news on Twitter and Dad's talking to the kids on Skype” really signals the demise of society.
I'm sure we've all heard of the father who emails his teenager to come down for dinner, or the family who tweet each other all day long, but, Krotoski explains that family, at least in the traditional sense, has been on the decline for decades:
“Researchers who've been studying the family from the days before the web had already described how family life was weakening because of the rise of individualism. Divorce was already on the increase before email, instant messaging and Facebook. Families were even then eating fewer meals together. It's an insidious trait of the adults of one modern era to point the finger at a technology they don't understand and blame it for the next generation's behaviour that they can't control.”
Krotoski also argues, however, that we live in an increasingly transient world, “where the need to make a living has given rise to mass migration to urban centres in every country."
"Children are separated from parents, siblings from one another and the web has provided us with the devices that make it easy to stay in touch.”
I entirely agree. My family is lives in four different countries. And no, I don't mean England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Between my father, mother, brother, sister and myself, we inhabit three continents and an island: The UK, continental Europe, Africa and Australia.
It was never a conscious decision, but opportunity, work, life and love have led us all in different directions. To us, the internet is invaluable. Without it, we'd have lost the closeness we still have, even after ten years of living apart.
My sister even 'attended' my baby shower on Skype, and my daughter 'recognised' her grandparents from it.
So for us, the internet has saved our family.
How much of your Christmas day was spent connecting with people you couldn't see – due to distance, or simply due to weather, and how did you get in touch? Is the internet good or bad for family life? What do you think?