I admit to a love/hate relationship with the internet, particularly as it relates to adoption reunion.
I love that the internet allowed me to find my child and to this day allows me to know she is still alive and breathing. Due to the internet, I know what she looks like, what she wears, her sexual orientation, that she loves cats, has bad teeth, struggles to make ends meet, is contemplating grad school, struggles to pay for healthcare, her girlfriends name, where her girlfriend went to school, what she does for work, where she works, and more. Via the internet I watched her graduate college. I know where she shops and what she eats on daily basis. I know where she gets her hair done and what color it is. I know that she has a hair color addiction that rivals mine. I know where she grew up. I have seen her adoptive parent home via google maps. I have obtained copies of her high school newsletters. I know when she is sick and that she struggles with allergies. I know that she dislikes Jonthan Franzen and she loves Virginia Woolf. I have seen the two tattoos she has on her body – one of a dragonfly and the other braille, inspired by a Winterston novel.
And yet we have not been in the same room with each other since she was three days old.
If I did not have the internet, I likely would still not know where she is or if she were alive or dead. I would still be walking in that weird foggy place watching the face of every child I see wondering if she were mine. I would still be talking to the stars hoping they would bounce my words right back to her and into her heart. I would still be suffering from anxiety attacks as her birthday approaches. I would still be addicted to checking obituaries to see if the person that died was born on May 16th, 1986.
If I did not have the internet, I might have actually been able to meet her again in person.
Alicia Err of the online site ReadWriteWeb recently posted an article “How Technology Changes Our Relationships“. In her article she references a talk given at TED 2012 by Sherry Turkle. Turkle is a Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Wikipedia, she focuses her research on psychoanalysis and human-technology interaction. She has written several books focusing on the psychology of human relationships with technology, especially in the realm of computer technology and computer addiction.” It is this body of work that Alicia Err refers to in her RWW article.
Turkles book, Alone Together, expresses Turkle’s belief that we are letting technology “take us places we don’t want to go.” She concludes: “The little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t change what we do, they change who we are.”
I would offer to Turkle and Err that the reverse is also true. Technology is preventing us from going places we DO want to go.
I would love to be in the same room with my daughter. Given the choice, I would have preferred to meet her instantly (like many of my friends have) upon our reunion. My friend Robyn and her mother, living two states from each other, drove to meet each other within 24 hours of connecting via the phone. As it approaches seven years for me since I found my daughter, I cannot help but reflect on how technology has contributed to this lack of reunion. I have never spoken to her on the phone. I don’t even know her phone number. If I did not have the luxury of the internet, would I have demanded she provide me with it? Would I have worked harder to find it out? Would I have called her parents home even though she no longer lives there.
How has the internet allowed us to stay “stuck” in our reunions?
Err indirectly supports my position when she states “we learn to edit ourselves. We do not have to reveal as much as we do in-person or via phone. We don’t have to feel as vulnerable, knowing that there is always a screen to hide behind. Actual real relationships with others are far more complex than that, however.”
Reunion is likely one of the most vulnerable places a person can ever come to. It strips us raw and naked and puts in front of people who threw us away and may do so again. It puts us face to face with the child that society told us were not good enough to parent. Technology helps us to avoid that risk. We can hide behind that screen and take a peek here and there but never do we have to be completely vulnerable.
I kinda hate it.
Correction. I definitely hate it.
Turkle states “Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding,…and we clean them up with technology. We sacrifice conversation for mere connection.”
I did not find my daughter. I found the online one-dimensional version of my daughter. I found my online child – not the human child I gave birth to and surrendered. I found the part of her she chooses to share with the public. I did not find her.
Turkle goes further to state that “the illusions of “friendship without the demands of companionship…offer us three types of fantasies: We’ll have attention everywhere, we’ll always be heard and we’ll never have to be alone. In other words, we feel less compelled to reach out and make an active connection.”
Bingo. Said differently, reunion without the demands of relationship..attention sometimes..heard when we want to be heard..but always safe. We can reach out when we want and respond when we want in the way we want and never risk an active connection.
For me, and many others like me, the internet helped but hindered our reunions. It provides an easy cop-out for us and other members to our reunion. We can connect – yet not. Turkle says “When we stumble or hesitate or lose our words, we reveal ourselves to each other.”
I want to lose my words. I want to stumble I want to lose my well crafted self edited words with my daughter. I want to stumble and stutter and show her how awful my face looks when I cry. I want her to see the exact color of the snot that runs down my face as I wipe it on my black colored sleeve and I want to wipe her snot from her face as she rails at me for adoption. I want to see her latest hair color up close and personal. I want to hear the sound of her voice bounce off the walls of the room we stand in together and not have it emanate out of my computer from a vimeo video.
But I cannot, at least not without her participation. Lacking that, I get my fixes from the interent like a junkie does from his dealer. Like a junkie, I cannot quit. I need my fix Hence, my love/hate relationship with the internet.
For more on Turkles book, visit this site. Below is a link to her TED Talk.
Below that is a PINK video that for some reason came to my mind as I typed this post. The connection should be self evident.