Staying in Touch: Electronic Courtship and Other Rituals

Sometimes I bemoan the fact that we have all been scattered
to the four winds by our modern transportation systems but
have not been held together by those same systems.

Unless you are well-heeled or subsidized through your
government or corporate position, air travel is too
expensive for anymore than one or two trips per year, if that.

Staying in touch with loved ones is quite a chore.
Not too many of us can simply walk up the street and visit
our son or daughter for a cup of tea. Often family and close
friends live miles away, separated by oceans and expensive
travel costs!

My daughter in Holland will often call me – on my card – and
“visit” for 45 minutes. If I become concerned about the cost
of the phone call, Dana will say something like, “Well, you
just took me out to dinner. O.K.?” But I still feel hungry
and a phone call is not as satisfying as time spent

But we have gained something. Transportation technology has
scattered us, and is undoubtedly the main culprit responsible
for breaking up family and community in the western world.

However, the Internet is helping hold us together. More and
more of us are taking advantage of information technology
for our staying-in-touch needs. The Internet is often referred
to as the Information Highway. But actually there are many
“information highways” available to us for staying in touch–
some old, some new, some improved.

Have you noticed that the cost of long distance
telephone calls has decreased? In fact there are ways to
make zero charge calls via the Internet.

Print has improved. If you are not using desktop publishing
in your business–and personal life–you are missing out on
a lot. Software programs abound that allow you to use graphics
and illustration and to format the printed page in a
professional manner–and, therefore, to communicate

Consider e-mail. Anyone who is not taking advantage
of electronic-mail these days is missing out on the
excitement of near instant delivery of messages to just
about anybody, anywhere. E-mail enhances our connection to
family, close friends and business associates. True, the
connection is not as personal as a shared lunch or a walk on
the beach, but one should take advantage of what is

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) may irritate us, but
consider how it can help navigate us to information
we need and guide us to people we need to contact–oh, and
also to avoid people.

Through a combination of survey and Internet technology,
organizations can quickly and at reasonable cost evaluate
people’s attitudes to products and services in order to
respond better to customer needs, provide more value, and
target markets more accurately and profitably.

In the May 15th – 21st, 2004 issue of The Economist,
a report appears on page 63 on Virtual meetings: Being
there. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, travel
looked dangerous and web-based conferencing and virtual
meetings grew in popularity. They continue to be popular
through good as well as bad times from “simple three way
conference calls to multimedia presentations beamed to
hundreds over the internet.”

Virtual meetings save money and time. They are according to
Ira Weinstein of Wainhouse Research, “Best seen as a middle
ground between a phone call and a face to face meeting and
he concluded, “Video conferencing is a perfect second-
meeting tool after the first handshake.”

The relatively simple addition of an inexpensive camera sitting
on top of your monitor and a headphone with a mike can do the

Each highway has its own impact. Each of the technologies for
staying in touch possesses its own negatives and positives,
its own particular feel. Technology, like any reality, is
essentially neutral. It has no intention to harm – or to
benefit for that matter. It simply is what it is.

Yet if the technology becomes ubiquitous, its consequences
both positive and negative quickly add up, and become part of
the social landscape. Then it is up to us to relate to
technology properly. Keeping things human is a matter of
the heart. It isn’t a matter of what information highways
exist or do not exist. It is a matter of how we use them.

Calling technology “inhuman” makes no sense. The biggest
mistake we can make is simply blindly following the edict
that if it can be done then let’s do it, without regard for
the consequences.

When we called cars “horseless carriages” we thought of them
as a continuation of a carriage but drawn by a different
form of energy. I doubt if many people in the early days of
automobile travel envisioned the positive and negative
impacts this new technology would create way beyond
the “comforting” image of a carriage being drawn by an
alternate energy. The horse manure may have disappeared from
the streets but was replaced by highly destructive exhaust

For example, the car changed the way we court. It
moved courting from the home porch to the back seat. We
might regret this change and we lost a lot when it happened,
but this change in behavior became a fact of life.

And now the Internet provides another way for people to meet,
relate–and even court. Marriages have taken place between people
who “met” on the Internet. The Internet is remarkably
democratic. It cares nothing for your race, creed, color,
disability or ability, appearance, and so forth. People have
encountered each other via the Internet in a more essential
manner than they might have if they had first met in person.
Something might have put them off. Some small prejudice

Is new technology positive or negative? It’s both. What you
lose on the curve you gain on the straightaway. We have no
choice but live in the world as it is. As it has
moved on, whether we think it is progress or regression. But
we do have a choice over how we relate to the emerging
technologies. And that power to choose is ultimately what
defines us as humans.

The Many “Information Highways” Available for
Staying in Touch

  • Desktop Publishing and Graphics
  • Slide presentations via a laptop or desktop
  • Digital photography
  • E-mail via the Internet.
  • Telephone (CATI) Computer-Aided
  • Telephone Interviewing
  • Smart Fax with no data entry
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • Remote-conferencing.Visit for information on Dr. George R. Marshall and his writing. Visit for the online Entrepreneurship & Ecology course. Successful business depends on three bottom lines. Subscribe to his entrepreneurship eZine, Winners Never Quit, Quitters Never Win at: