When one mother in Wilkes-Barre PA found out she was going to be a grandmother by reading a friend of a friend’s Facebook page, she was understandably upset. Other people have reported finding out that their loved ones have passed away, are having children, getting married, getting divorced, moving, or are even in jail – all through the wonders of social media. In fact, its ironic that with all the privacy and security settings in place and worries about personal information ending up in the wrong hands – today it is easier than ever to find out about people, even perfect strangers – than at any other time in our history. If you want to know what someone does for a living, or how they spent their weekend, or what their children’s names are, it is as easy as Google – which will instantly direct you to every blog, tweet, *like* or ‘+1” that person has ever made.
And sadly, many of these forms of social media as well as text messaging and cell phones which are designed to keep us all connected and closer, have actually warped ideals of friendship and family and replaced genuine relationships.
In many homes across the world, relatives keep up with one another solely based on the wonders of technology. And even worse, is that many experts say that today’s up and coming generation is losing its ability to forge personal bonds and engage in the rules of conversation and communication that are prevalent in face to face or even voice to voice contact. In fact teens today, largely communicate with their peers and social groups via instant or text messaging and spend more time on the computer being social than they do spending quality ‘physical’ time with one another.
And yet, there are some people who won’t budge and won’t become part of this instantaneous society. These are the people that adamantly assert their right to say, “If you want to know what I am up to, then CALL ME!” “Or come by the house!” So, are these people banishing themselves from having ‘real’ relationships with others? We can all certainly hope not!
The truth is that the real questions need to go out to the people who refuse to communicate in any other form than social media. Sure, a funny tweet and an endearing Facebook post is a great way to spend a few minutes. But today, it is estimated that people spend as much as 5 hours per day on their computers and phones socializing with others – without any REAL social contact. There are no smiles on line, unless you count the smiley face emoticon. You cannot hear inflection in voices. There is no touching, no exchanged hugs or handshakes. You cannot tell if people are telling the truth or lying on line because the entire communication is void of non-verbal communication which is essential. In fact, socializing online doesn’t even allow our intuition to make a play about whether we like someone or not. And what of listening? Can people really ‘listen’ online? Communication experts say that 90% of a conversation is listening to the people you are talking to, hearing what they say, and reading emotions on their face, that the written word, tweet, or Facebook post – cannot replicate!
You also have to wonder how much of what you read and see online is real. Take into consideration that dating sites have had to use disclaimers and security background checks to safeguard themselves from people who make a life creating alter egos online and selling them to others. Do you really think that all the facebook posts, tweets and status updates are a real depiction of how the people you call your friends and family are really feeling? Isn’t there a pretty good chance that since the online world of socialism is so visible, and can be so damning that most people are only creating a vision of what they want others to see?
If you haven’t launched your online presence yet, chances are that everyone you know is trying to get you to do so. If you feel like you are behind the times on the latest happenings of your friends and family, they will likely prod you to set up an account, and stay abreast of the news. And yet for a lot of people that were not born in the social media age of relationships this is not how you bond with friends and family. Not in the least.
Bottom line is that while these social escapes, which are the new age equivalent to sending out a Xeroxed Christmas letter with your Christmas card that keeps every one far and near abreast of what is going on in your life, are relevant and popular – they aren’t quite the best way to maintain relationships. In fact, chatting with your friend over coffee, with the two of you staring at a computer screen, does not provide you with the innate social contact that is necessary for human beings to feel loved, appreciated and connected to others. We aren’t the Jetsons, living in a far away galaxy that makes face to face to contact impossible. And even more important, face-to-face, physical contact with others is necessary for our well being and happiness.
Convenience always comes at a price. However, if the price that we, as a society, and as friends and family, have to pay for social technology is to live our lives void of real, human relationships – then it really isn’t worth it. There was time when a phone call received at just the right moment from a loved one or friend, could heal nearly any wound of life. Knowing that you are loved and cared about, and taking the time to truly be present with another is more a gift now, than it has been during any other time in our history.