Saturday, August 04, 2007

Technological Togetherness

MARRIED COUPLES might share beds and closets and toothpaste, but share an email account? No. Way. Technology should be separate and this is precisely why:

Partly because online activities can feel so solitary, some couples look for ways to achieve togetherness in their digital lives. Sherry and John Cheung created a joint "johnandsherry" email address. Ms. Cheung, 28, says the shared address makes her feel more like she's part of an official couple.

"It's a 'We're the Cheungs' type of thing," says the telecommunications manager in San Ramon, Calif. She says she's more likely to use it when she's writing her married friends (many of whom also share addresses) because they understand she's operating as part of a unit now.

But Ms. Cheung's friend Hui-Lin Grecian balks at writing to "johnandsherry." Ms. Grecian says she worries Mr. Cheung might forget to pass along a message if he checks the email first or might feel left out if she fails to include a greeting for him, as well. "A little more thought has to go into it," Ms. Grecian says.

How, pray tell, does a shared email account make you feel more connected? To me, it's confusing. Who is responding to the email? Who am I writing to? Will the person I'm hoping to reach actually get the message?

Besides, a uni-account is bad manners. Not that many people follow this rule, but only the person who is writing the letter should sign the letter. If a spouse signs it, that means that he or she has read and agrees with the content. Signing "Love, John and Susie", when Susie wrote the note is bad manners. She would be better to say "Love, Susie and Family". This way the authorship isn't in doubt. This is just a pet peeve of mine. Joint emails is another. If I want my husband to know what's going on or if he wants to keep me informed, we just forward the message to each other. Authorship is clear. An even bigger pet peeve is when a spouse hijacks the other's email and I get to the bottom and find out that Susie is really John. Oy!

Sure marriage is a team thing, but do we have to blend into one big amorphous blob? That's part of the reason some single people (and some married people) think marriage sucks--people go to ridiculous links to erase individuality. Women, especially, are guilty of this. Matching colors, joint email and excessive "we language" (we are pregnant! we are getting a raise! we are cancer-free!) are territorial marks announcing to the world her couple -centered identity. To me, it signals insecurity more than anything.

As for saying mean things about a spouse through the blog? That's not a prescription for marital happiness. Nor is it a good idea to keep sign-ins secret--what exactly are you hiding from a spouse (besides buying him a gift--that's a good secret)?

It is possible to passive-aggressively use technology:

For Stephen and Denise De Chellis of Gaylordsville, Conn., living under one roof hasn't been a problem, but sharing one Netflix account has. Ms. De Chellis likes to use the DVD-by-mail service to rent romantic comedies. To sneak in the science-fiction and anime he prefers, Mr. De Chellis has taken to covert early-morning updates of the Netflix queue.

Waking up at 5 a.m., while his wife and daughter are still asleep, he pads into the darkened kitchen, logs onto his computer and changes the Netflix order to put his favorite movies on top. He knows the warehouse ships the movies by about 7 a.m., so by the time his wife realizes what he's done, it'll be too late. "It's not grounds for murder, but it is irritating," Ms. De Chellis says.

No conversations, no taking turns, 'eh? Just subversion and selfishness. Well, that's a mighty-fine marriage foundation.

Technology is one more way to build up or break down a relationship.

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