I’ve been thinking about Social Media lately. I’ve always been a defender of the new forms of communication – encouraging other adults I know to join Facebook to connect with their friends and family. But lately, a little thought has been nagging at me. What if it’s actually disconnecting us?
Sure, there have been a hundred different news articles about the damaging effects of instant messaging. I’ve never listened. I’ve always thought that people addicted to social media were simply lacking in self-control. Of course, I count myself as part of that group. But I no longer think our current methods of communication are as innocuous as they seem.
Sometimes I get angry about things. It used to be that I could write a strongly worded letter. I’d scrawl it out by hand, then write out the address on an envelope, pay 25 cents for a stamp (sheesh, I’m getting old), and wait for good old “snail mail” to deliver it to my recipient. Then I would wait for a week or two for their response. Usually by that time, the emotions had died down – in both parties. Often I would calm down before I got to the point of paying for a stamp. It’s rare that I actually mailed one of those strongly worded letters.
Fast forward to the current era of instant messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, and Buzz and you have a firestorm of ongoing emotional outbursts. We no longer have time restraints on our emotions. One second we think them, the next they are out there for the world to see. When we used to spend an hour crafting our words, now we send them off without so much as a look. It used to be difficult to send a message – you had to really mean it. Now it’s as easy as tapping a finger.
Obviously, I’ve misused this convenience recently, and I instantly regretted it – but couldn’t take it back. Maybe I’m being a reminiscent old fool, but I miss the days when communication had built-in etiquette and boundaries. How often do people use words to hurt each other – instantly – when it would have taken weeks to send those words (and you’d usually think better of it)? How often do we say something to someone’s Facebook that we would never say to their face?
The issue really is about self-control. But I think our current media makes that kind of self-control more difficult than ever. For my part, I’m about *this close* to devoting myself exclusively to snail mail again. I can claim I’m reviving the lost art of letter writing. Does anyone want to be my pen pal?