I can still remember the day when we moved to Idaho and my parents had to use walkie-talkies to communicate between vehicles. I can also remember the first time I ever saw a movie on DVD -- you mean you don't have to rewind? You can actually click on screen icons like a computer? Wow!
And I clearly remember a conversation with my mom in which she prophesied a future TV that would act as both a television and computer, and it would be completely flat, like a picture on the wall. I didn't believe her. We still had to get offline then to make a phone call. I used floppy disks in elementary school. Only a few years ago, I remember reading in a magazine about the prediction of the iPhone. An iPod that could call people? Impossible.
It's astonishing to see how far technology has come in just a few short years. It has changed the way we live, including the way we see and get along with those around us. How have relationships changed now that we have cell phones, social websites, webcams and the works?
* Parents: For my 16th birthday I was surprised with a cell phone, with the admonition that I was only receiving it because I was trusted. Have cell phones changed the way our parents trust us? In one sense, our parents don't have to trust us as much; they can communicate with us at ease. When we are out and about, we are not alone. If trouble occurs we have a world network in our pocket.
But on the other hand, our parents have to trust us a lot more when they present us with a cell phone, let us sign on to Facebook, and so on. The reasons are obvious. Cell phones and the Internet bring new situations that parents have to trust their children with. Who is their child texting all the time? What kinds of things are they accessing on the Internet?
Sometimes I find myself depending on my parents more because I have a cell phone. It's often much easier to send out a quick question by text than to figure it out myself. What time do I take dinner out of the oven? What street is this on again?
* Social life: I don't have a Facebook account. It's a whole different aspect of social life that I don't participate in, and sometimes I can feel that difference. Friends post pictures and information that I don't find out about as quickly. "You're going to Europe? Since when?" ... but of course, it's been posted on Facebook for weeks. And as some of my friends are heading off to college, it seems like Facebook would be an easy way to keep in touch.
When I want to plan an unofficial party, do I have to call each of my friends or send out invitations? No, I send out a mass text. Want to go for a hike? What are you doing tonight? Such messages can be sent to 30 different people in a matter of minutes, and chances are, a few of those 30 will be able hang out. I have a friend who does this, and I get to meet many new people because he sends the text to everybody and welcomes whoever can make it.
* Dating: Dating has changed dramatically due to technology. Even if you put aside new phenomenon such as dating websites, society has moved away from the traditional, timid phone call. Nowadays, if you get a girl or guy's number, it's not usually to call them to go out for a date. It's a text to come hang out, or even just a simple way to get to know them without any pressure.
I know a newlywed couple who began their relationship by texting each other "get-to-know-you questions" into the wee hours of the night. And for those already in a relationship, technology keeps them together even across distances.
Technology -- is it strengthening or weakening our relationships? A bit of both ... it's all a matter of perspective.
Alexandra Burton is a senior at Ogden High School. You will find her running, reading, writing or playing the violin. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.