I don’t think there’s much new to be said about the technology and social media that’s changed the way we communicate.
That’s not to cheapen it, lessen it or devalue it. It’s important to the way this generation lives. But are they completely good? I’m in its grasp. I love my iPhone, I’m obsessed with Twitter and I (loathingly) have a Facebook. Yet I can’t help but notice the other side of the argument. How can these tools hurt us?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. In the role of a journalist I have to use these tools. I have to be able to Tweet and have the access a smart phone gives me from any location. I’ve even used Facebook for good. It was where I found the story about the dog in Tolland that was on ‘death row’ this summer. Facebook showed its power there, as hundreds rallied together to support the dog and eventually had its life spared.
But with all of Facebook’s positives – helping causes, finding long lost friends, keeping in touch with the ones who moved elsewhere and giving you immediate and instant access to almost anyone – it can present negatives in the same light. I realize I’m not the first one to notice this or discuss it, but I want to talk about it relative to my own life and my own experiences – I’m not harping on the big picture and what the world does with it. What would be the point of that?
Between close friends Facebook creates an imitation of interaction. While two people can learn everything they want to about each other or stay up-to-date with each other’s lives, it doesn’t create what actual human interaction can. But because Facebook (or texting) allows quick, unmitigated and surprisingly deep conversation, it becomes a placebo for what humans really need: honest emotion, real interaction and that simple moment of seeing another person’s face and hearing another person’s voice. The speed at which we’re able to communicate today almost lessens the need for some people to do anything but have a quick, sometimes vapid chat from the computer stationed in their living room or bedroom or from their smart phone and call that staying in touch.
I am not here to deem those actions wrong. It might not be wrong for you. I’ve realized that for me, it isn’t what I want out of people or life. I don’t like it. I find it limiting, restricting and hardly beneficial to any relationship. I talk to a lot of people throughout the week on the phone – interviewing them for quick pieces about town government, community happenings and all that. But it isn’t until I meet those people, or any person, that I really understand them and get a feel for their personality. That’s when I can really tap into a person and actually get something out of the conversation. Obviously in all walks of life, with friends I want to see or sources I need to interview, you can’t always see that person face to face. That’s where a phone call to a source, an e-mail to an old friend or a text message to a new friend can come in handy. It’s when we rely on those methods of communication to stay in touch or enjoy another person’s company that it becomes dangerous.
I’ve deactivated my Facebook profile once before. It’s a strange thing. You get a lot of questions from people asking why you did it. Heck, people get offended when you delete them as a friend, even though you don’t communicate with them in any way. It’s almost too important to people. At that time I quickly realized I had to succumb to Facebook to stay in touch with staff writers of CCSU’s campus newspaper The Recorder (I had tried this experiment back when I was the paper’s editor).
But now I’m giving Facebook a second thought. Closing it and giving my willpower a test to stay away from it for at least a short period of time is tempting. In thinking of ways to better my life, I think getting rid of my profile could help. If you don’t like where you’re at, change something. Of course, simply closing a social media profile is not going to bring instant change (for better or worse). More important actions needs to accompany other less important (yet springboard) actions like pulling the plug on your Facebook account.
I’m not here to repeatedly slam Facebook’s head into a pole. I’ve recognized its brilliance and usefulness. If you love Facebook, more power to you. If you think it’s bettering your life, then I’m happy for you. I just happen to think it’s doing the opposite for me in many ways. I also don’t mean to make this some kind of dramatic “I’m outta here,” but more an opportunity for a strong reflection. Reliance on it has become overwhelming and I think I’m about ready for a change.
My relationship with Facebook is going to be put on pause for now. It might be a week, it might be a month. I’m just keen to see what happens.
My blogs will stay, my Twitter will remain and my iPhone will always be turned on. Shouldn’t that be enough for the people who want me to be part of their lives?
Also, sorry for the hideous Dr. Strangelove headline. Couldn’t resist.