Friday, June 24, 2011

Facebook and the Death of Relationships

How many of you remember when Social Networking was the ice cream social after a Sunday night Singspiration at church, or a neighborhood BBQ on the 4th of July, or having all of the kids in your neighborhood over after school for a birthday party, game of hide-n-seek, or slumber party?  Or when you had to listen and count the number of rings and the ring pattern to know if a phone call was for your house because you were on a party line?  Or when to place a call you tapped the handset cradle a couple of times and then waited for your local operator to come onto the line and place the call for you?
Getting a phone call was a social event.  Not everyone had phones, and that very fact brought neighbors together because the telephone was a luxury you only used when you couldn’t just walk next door or across the street and have a face-to-face conversation with whomever it was you needed to speak to.  Yeah – I know – bed grammar.  Probably should have said ‘with whomever it was with whom you needed to speak,’ but let’s be honest – even we who are called the grammar nazi’s find speaking like that in real life a little over the top.
Point is that back in the day, as it were, social networking meant actually speaking with someone, and most of the time doing it face to face.
My, how things have changed.  No one talks anymore.  They – which is to say, WE text, tweet, and post our status.  And it’s easy.  You can hide behind a telephone screen and keyboard, or a computer screen in ways you never could when socializing meant looking each other in the eye.  And, with the inherent anonymity of a smartphone-smartpad – facebook world, you can be as rude, crude and obnoxious as you want because you never have to actually look anyone in the eye.  You never have to see the hurt your snide comment makes in the eyes of the person reading it.  You never have to witness the consequences of your words when you’re hiding behind a broadband or 4G wireless connection.
And you say things and post things in a public forum you would never dream of saying if you were in the same room, sitting across the dinner table from someone.  You air your dirty laundry in ways you would never dreamed possible when you can hide behind a high resolution camera equipped iPhone.
Some might argue that things like YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook have brought the world together, and there is some truth to that.
But it has also made narcissistic voyeurs of us, and created a mean spirited, cruel society of nameless, faceless cowards who hide behind their technology blissfully unaware of the pain they cause by their not so clever witlesscisms. 
We post things on Facebook we would never dare say to someone in person, and for some reason think no one else but the people on our friends list will read it.  And that’s true, right up until a friend ‘shares’ it, and a friend of theirs ‘shares’ it, and a friend of theirs ‘shares’ it.  It’s called Six Degrees of Separation.  Only now, it’s viral.  That stupid, mean spirited, cruel remark you would never make in public or in person is now suddenly posted in a medium that can potentially reach billions of people.  Oh, you can delete it from your wall, but it doesn’t end there.
Technology can be a great thing, but it can also be a tool in the machine of an isolationist, cowardly, mean spirited society that never has to face the consequences of their tweet, video, or status post.
You think your words, videos, pictures and tweets are harmless, personal, private matters that don’t really hurt anyone because no one will ever know?  Yeah.  That’s what Bret Favre and Anthony Weiner thought too.
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