Do Social Networks Make Us Lazy Connectors and Shy Communicators?

When I was a kid I made friends from school and around the neighborhood and this mostly entailed face-to-face encounters. Most of my classmates knew each other’s telephone numbers. And so did the neighborhood guys, but we rarely needed to phone each other because we just lived houses apart.

Those days, kids didn’t have mobile phones. You’d be lucky if you had your own telephone line in your room. Social networking meant spending Friday evenings with your pals playing Nintendo. That was just 15 to 20 years ago. Imagine how it was in the time before my childhood years.

These days playing Nintendo with friends means everyone stayed at their own place, playing multi-player games with each other over the Internet. Phone calls have given way to text messaging and instant messaging. Sure we have video conferencing, but does anyone bother?

In this age of social networking, many of us have become lazy connectors and shy communicators.

It used to be that when you try to reach out to friends or relatives around the world, you have long email exchanges or IM chats. With social networks, you just visit their profile, read up on what they’re currently doing, and then navigate away.

It used to be that when you needed a reference, you asked someone to introduce you. Nowadays, you just search social networking profiles for friends of friends, bypassing that all too important “connector.”

Building up a social network profile and a contact list can involve a lot of effort, sure. But once you have your profile up, getting connected with friends mostly involves reading each others’ profiles and posting a comment every once in a while. Connecting becomes passive. We no longer directly seek out people online (or offline), but rather we seek out their online identities.

And because we’re hidden behind our keyboards, many of us have lost interpersonal skills and have become shy when dealing with other people in person. Reaching out has never been more convenient, yet this has caused us to regress in terms of our ability to really communicate.

If you’ve watched the movie WALL-E (spoiler alert!), you’ll remember that people have spent too much time in space (seven centuries) in a comfortable, pampered existence that they’ve forgotten how to walk. Will social media cause us to lose the ability to talk, too?

I believe that technology is best used as a tool to make our lives easier, and not something that we allow to take over our lives. But for those of us whose work and business involve social media, is it easier to fall into this trap?

Just thinking aloud here. I do try to avoid the pitfalls of living an online life. Does anyone feel the same way? Or is resistance futile, and will we be assimilated one way or another?

8 thoughts on “Do Social Networks Make Us Lazy Connectors and Shy Communicators?

  1. I’m not big on staying in touch with facebook or any of the other social networks out there.
    I’ve actually got a dummy facebook profile that allows me to peek at other peoples profiles but as for contacting old schoolmates, I didn’t like most of them when I was in school, why would I want to hook up with them now?.
    The friend I do stay in touch with I will phone or send them a quick text message
    to keep in touch.

  2. I don’t know. I’ve always been shy. My best friend growing up was someone whom I had known my whole life, so I never had to seek her out. I’m young enough that I had email in high school, but old enough that I never felt the need to get into texting.

  3. An interesting point. Does it matter to you that I found this story while browsing a friend’s social network site? (It’s true.)

    I know what you mean, though. Just because staying in touch is easier than ever doesn’t mean the quality of our relationships will improve. There is certainly more of a temptation to have lots of surface-level acquaintances rather then putting the effort into forming and maintaining a few good and meaningful friendships.

    Historical letters between friends or loved ones are astonishing in their depth of feeling. I don’t know that I’d say the same about most emails or wall posts we see today. Still, if someone’s heart is in the right place, then the social networks he uses become good tools for building resonating, even timeless, relationships. But these kinds of relationships always involve hard work and character, regardless of the tools involved.

  4. IMO, social network has both its plus and negatives. I still have a good list of people I call or receive calls from regularly.

    There are others who I meet up with once in a while.

    And, there are others, well, I prefer keeping online.

    However, there is a grave problem of losing our verbal communication. I’ve seen people preferring to scrap each other than even chat, let alone call.

    Others prefer to sms rather than call, even when the SMS is more expensive.

    Somethings, I just can’t understand.

  5. Hmm, this sounds like a similar argument in which Google has made people dumb as no one wants to think on there own anymore.

    However, I see where you’re coming from but I think for things to work out for the best, you need to have a good balance of both the online and offline world.

  6. It’s true that the easy access to socializing that the Internet provides can make people more lazy and less social in the offline world. But the flip side is that for people who were already shy or withdrawn, it provides an environment in which they can flourish. Since I fall somewhere in the middle (my shyness comes and goes), I can appreciate that while still realizing that in some cases, it’s a great loss of in-person interaction.

  7. To some degree there is truth in this.

    Though when you have a large family you either choose to ignore a certain group that’s extended too far away. Now with Social Networking you can catch up on them without having to spend hours talking or updating yourself. I’ve seen this happen in families where there is no social network but just a yearly update of each family or person.

    Lazy + extended is still ok in my book.

    Though I try NOT to live an online life. I mean, I still email etc. but calling, video conferencing and meeting up are all still very important.

    You might be talking to a niche here.

    (I’m 25, was an avid gamer, CompSci grad. So I probably fit into your niche.)

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