As of late I have been thinking about my friendships. It has not escaped my observations that others seem to be checking their phones for status updates and answering text messages on a regular basis. I can’t help but notice that, outside of family, I don’t have a lot of the socializing that others seem to have. It made me kind of gloomy while I pondered it. But then a different thought crossed my mind and was shortly confirmed by the video (http://blog.petflow.com/a-video-everyone-needs-to-see/) that is being shared on Facebook.
Cyber-friendships are replacing personal ones. I believe that people collect names on their Facebook friends list as a status symbol. If I have 300 friends than I must not be invisible. We are uncertain of our thoughts and opinions until they have been liked. If no one likes them than something must be askew with our thought process and our opinions need adjustment. If our daily status updates go unliked or uncommented than the quality of our day diminishes, especially if we thought we were doing something pretty cool – like eating out, baking bread, or cleaning the house. We scroll through the newsfeed for our daily social scoop, just to see if anything interesting is going on in other people’s lives. If it’s bad news we kind of feel better about our day; if it’s good news we wonder why everyone else is having a better day than us.
None of this is wrong, per se, except that the inter-personal connection is being lost. People used to mingle in the town square or visit on front porches. They used to chat on the phone and hear voice inflections to better communicate emotions. Conversation was a skill that incorporated listening, pausing, and responding; now it is just another part of multi-tasking – quick text reply, do something else, check for response, do something else, message back, etc. Phone calls, hanging out, and writing letters are becoming awkward, because we feel like we have already informed the world of any new changes using our status updates. What’s left to discuss? In fact, voice-to-voice and face-to-face conversations are often being avoided due to the amount of time that is required to engage in them.
Is this all bad? If keeping in touch is the main consideration, it’s not bad. Facebook, for example, allows one to find people you had once thought were long gone. It encourages reconnection and is a wonderful way of spreading the word around the world about important causes. If information needs to be moved quickly, Facebook is the way to go. As to providing satisfying social relationships, Facebook and it’s family of social networking technology will leave us wanting. An online chat will never meet the social needs that humans crave. We need to feel personal touch, hear voice inflections, see emotions reflected in another’s face and eyes, and experience the sense of our heart being expressed in our voice versus typed out on a keypad. The younger generations are being socially stunted because they are not learning inter-personal social etiquette; they assume that what is provided by technology is all that is necessary.
Personally, I’m not going to delete my Facebook account because I do enjoy it and it does serve it’s purpose in my life. However, I have a growing desire to have people reach out to me and suggest hanging out in person. A picnic, perhaps? or meeting for tea? or going to the library? Nothing grand or expensive, just a way to spend some time with me in person. I wouldn’t mind a phone call from a friend or two a couple of times a week just because they want to hear my voice. I know I try to do that, but people are just so busy these days. It’s easy to feel like if you’ve commented on a few people’s walls you have filled your social quota for the day; but when the pace of your day slows down a notch, you realize that Facebook simply is not enough.
A young friend of mine came for her first day of training to be a mother’s helper. Time flew by as we chatted about nothing and everything at the same time. We spent about three hours together and I had no desire to look at my phone other than to check the time. That felt good, and she told me that it was so nice to talk and know the other person was listening to her.