THE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN IN-PERSON AND CYBERSPACE RELATIONSHIPS:
SENSORY INTEGRATION AND INTUITION
Rarely in IPR do we connect to the other person by one sense alone. At
the very least we see and hear simultaneously. During more intimate
relating we see, hear, touch, smell, and maybe even taste. The complex and
interactions among all that sensory input far exceeds the
interpersonal meaning we can extract from any one of them alone. Mother
nature was pretty clever in giving us eyes, ears, skin, noses, and tongues
interconnected in marvelous ways that science still doesn't fully
understand. Those clusters of sensations make for relationships that
are highly robust in emotion and meaning.
As Internet technology improves, auditory and visual sensations
will be more effectively coordinated with each other. But even with unlimited
bandwidth and highly imaginative code, we'll never see all five
sensations integrated as in IPR. In CSR the five senses tend to be
and that's a double-edged sword. On the one hand the rich interpersonal
qualities afforded by the five senses is lost, resulting in human
encounters that may run a bit on the stale side. On the other hand,
extracting out some sensory modes -- like vision or voice -- creates
unique ways to interact with others. E-mail and typed chat can be rather
fascinating styles of developing a relationship. The sensory
limitations can fuel the imagination and lead to creative patterns of
communicating that are not found in IPR.
Sometimes we humans connect to each other in ways that seem to defy
the traditional laws of sense impressions. Call it telepathy, empathy, or
intuition, we seem to know what others are thinking or feeling
without being aware of just how we know it. Some people think that we reach
those conclusions based on an unconscious detection of subtle qualities in
voice, body language, or things said between the lines. If that's the case,
then sensory information indeed is influencing how we experience the other.
We just don't realize how exactly we're being subliminally influenced.
Curiously, people report that even in the stripped down sensory world
of CSR -- like text-only chat -- others sometimes sense what you are
thinking and feeling, even when you didn't say anything to that effect. Did
they detect your mood or state of mind from some subtle clue in what or how
you typed? Are they picking up on some seemingly minor change in how you
typically express yourself?
Or does their empathy reach beyond your words appearing on the
screen? Perhaps they are in tune with your mind via some pathway that neither
psychology nor computer technology can fully explain. If that kind of
intuitive connection really exists, then the differences between IPR
and CSR become rather insignificant. On that mysterious level, human
relating transcends sense organs and micro chips.
John Suler, PhD, is Professor of Psychology
at Rider University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has published
on psychotherapy, mental imagery, and eastern philosophy. He currently maintains
several web sites.