Last night I attended a talk by Francesca Ferentelli on the archetypes of Hermes and Aphrodite and the ways in which the realms of Hermes, the god of invention and commerce, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, overlap in the modern world. We talked about online dating, the construction of personal profiles (some might actually call them ads), social media, texting and video chat technology and the way these things influence and change the dynamics of relationships.
As one might expect, there were people who felt these technologies have an increasingly negative impact on humanity, that they keep us from genuine connection and communication. And there were those who felt technology offers the opportunity to connect in new ways, perhaps with people we never would have been able to connect with before due to geographical distance.
When I think about the influence of technology in my own life, I think both things can be true. I am extremely grateful for the technology that allows me to sit and eat breakfast (via Skype) with my young nieces in California, who, both in the first two years of their lives, are growing so fast I can literally watch them change from week to week. Were it not for Skype, they’d know my face only from pictures. I am old enough to remember exchanging letters during my first year of college with my best friend, who went to a school far away. We’d write letters every day, then mail a packet of letters at the end of the week. By the time I found out what was happening in her life, my information was probably a couple of weeks old. In some ways, I miss writing those letters. But I also love that when I’m having a rough day, I can connect with an old friend instantly, something I did not necessarily have the opportunity to do that first year far away from friends and family.
I probably have no concept of the technologies that will be available to my young nieces as they grow up, or how that will impact the way they form and cultivate relationships. Their lives are already influenced by Hermes, with their little toy cell phones and laptops. One niece was startled, visiting at her grandparents’ house, by the sound of a ringing landline phone, something she had never heard before. But Aphrodite still holds such sway with them also, connected as they are to the body, to physical growth and exploration of the world, to their own innate pace of living and experiencing the world. My hope is for them is that they may somehow learn to keep that balance, and that they may do so better than we have.