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?