The social networking trap

Written by Sai, aka “One of the Guys”

I discovered texting two years ago. I love it! Of course this irritates my wife to no end. She says, “Why do we have to text three times back and forth when we can just talk on the phone?” She has a good point. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to her, it’s just texting doesn’t take me out of my frame of mind; whether I’m at work, or in a meeting, or hanging out with the guys, talking on the phone requires me to shift gears, and these days, I prefer an automatic.

I think most people these days prefer to glide effortlessly through social situations, eschewing the joy and challenge of a clutch and a stick. We like  having the work  done for us. And boy have we all gotten lazy.

THE GUYS and I have gotten countless questions recently about troubles that have occurred on Facebook, My Space, and other social networking sites. We’re horrified that relationships are being conducted through the internet in front of a gawking crowd. No wonder the fall is so hard. Rejection is bad enough, but when there’s an angry mob watching it’s ever so painful. Because social networking sites bring to mind ancient Roman times filled with gladiators fighting all sorts of beasts and men, at insurmountable odds, under the considerable duress of a fickle crowd, that turns as easily as baking bread.

Let’s consider email, which surfaced some ten or more years ago. Like most people I took to it like a fly on fruity paper. What a time saver! And so easy! And keeping in touch with people was now easier than ever. Slowly the number of my phone messages dwindled as my inbox grew and grew. What fun!

But a strange thing began to happen. I started having more and more miscommunications via email. Arguments, disagreements, worries about job inquiries, even friendships lost! Many of these situations arose because tone, inflection, emphasis, sarcasm, humor are all lost when the written word isn’t carefully laid on the screen; instead emails are often dry, monotone messages that are ripe for misinterpretation.

And oh how easy it was, and is, for me to rifle off a quick response without taking a moment to just sit and try to figure out what I truly want to say-or try to think what the person is truly trying to say. And this is the bunny that keeps on ticking because I keep making the same mistake over and over. Some things take a lifetime to unlearn.

I have a lot of Facebook friends from many different generations. I love having friends and acquaintances from all walks of life and with various degrees of life experience. But I’m amazed at some of the pictures and words that are being flung out in the world. I mean “Really!?? Is fame, or the scant idea of fame-or just recognition-that important?” When I see these notes and images I don’t comment, but I want to reach through the screen and shake some sense into these people and say, “Repeat after me. It’s not worth it! It’s not worth it.”

Sure, we all do stupid things. I’m no different. I’ve done countless things that I wish I could reel in and tuck away in my own little-but getting bigger- private fishing tackle box; one that might be buried or burned with me when I no longer need this body. But I’m hoping I’m making some progress as my years tick away on this planet.

Relationships aren’t automatic. They are difficult mazes that require commitment every day in order to thrive and grow. They need to be watered, fed and nurtured by everyone involved; and a little love and naughty fun thrown in for good measure doesn’t hurt.

Facebook, My Space and other social sites can’t provide that kind of sustenance. They create a mirage of a full course meal that people crave, but only deliver an empty appetizer devoid of nutritional value. No wonder Corn Syrup has made such an inroad into our staple diet. We don’t even recognize the enemy when they’re knocking on our door, because we love easy. We love things gift-wrapped. We love automatics!

It’s time we all shift gears and get off the computer. You laugh because you know I’m typing this on my keyboard. But life is ironic, and people are hypocritical, but you can’t tell that by what you’re reading here. You don’t really know how serious I am-I’m very serious-and that I truly mean all the things I’m writing even if I’m using the very medium I’m criticizing. I never said the computer was evil, just that it isn’t going to help us conduct our relationships and help us foster new ones.

Computers can make life much easier, but when it comes to relationships it makes things much harder. It’s creating more work and more ambiguity in our lives, and then requiring more energy from us to deal with the problems and sort them out. It’s a lot easier to just take care of business with someone over dinner, lunch or tea. And there’s nothing like hearing something straight from the horse’s mouth.

One thing I try to remind myself of as I’m sitting across the dinner table from my wife, or a friend, or one of my kids, is that they should feel like the only person in my universe at that very moment. When I feel the vibration of a text coming in-yes for some reason I still have my phone on me, which is another problem for another time- I have to resist the urge to respond. The message will be waiting for me when I am finished with a pleasant dinner, hopefully devoid of sugary syrup, but definitely topped off with some dark chocolate.

And that’s the beauty of technology.

What do you use social networks for?
How do you like to communicate?
Should relationships be conducted via social networks?

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12 Comments on The social networking trap

  1. Apparently I’m the only person who hasn’t had a problem with communicating via electronic means. I’ve never had anyone take anything the wrong way….

    What I like about using the computer to conduct relationships is that I have time to sound slightly more intelligent. I have time to think about what I’m going to say before I type it in…and after I’ve typed I can re read. Once something leaves my mouth, that’s it. It may be brilliant or horrifically inappropriate (I swing both ways) but in either case I can’t edit. I can’t take it back. I can’t think “wow, that was harsh” and take time to consider the other guy’s side.

    I like texting because it’s more polite. When the phone rings I could be interrupting dinner, a meeting, a heart-to-heart with a broken-hearted child. If I text, not only do I sound more brilliant, you are also able to read what I say when it’s convenient for you. And if you don’t have time to reply right then? No big deal. You text back when you can.

    Granted…I’m hiding behind my profile. You have a chance to read it, decide if we have anything in common to talk about…you can read things I’ve said to other people and decide if I’m someone you want to say hi to, maybe strike up a conversation, maybe start a friendship without me having to go through “first date jitters” and be brilliant all over again, or worry about what to wear, what to talk about, whether or not something is stuck between my teeth.

    The internet is an easier, safer place for those shy, unsure, but very nice people like me who tend to stay away from actual social situations. AFTER we’ve “met” online I have no problem hanging out with you in person. The difficult awkward phase is over by then. When we finally meet in person we’re already friends and I can just be myself without worrying about how to impress you. By the time you meet me you already know there is very little to be impressed about. 🙂

  2. Why not text, e-mail, social network, if you enjoy it? Why make a problem out of it? Who’s to say what kind of communication is healthier or more productive than another? Just do what you feel like.

  3. Hey Sai–another great post (as usual!). I definitely think social networking sites have a major place in our world today. Thanks to Facebook, I have gotten in touch with SO many people from my past–and many of those people helped me with memories for my book, so it was really beneficial. I am also able to connect with my friends who live all over the world. I am not that great of a correspondent (via snail male) but via Facebook, or email–I’m in!

    I met my husband on an online dating site–and so I am a huge proponent of those too.

    I think there can be some problems if we don’t also nurture our face-to-face friendships. And we also need to remember the emotions and feelings of all those people behind the computer.

    What do you use social networks for? For everything from staying in touch with old and new friends to broadcasting new posts.

    How do you like to communicate? Honestly, mostly by email because I tend to like instant gratification. But there’s also nothing better than a face-2-face, heart-2-heart talk.

    Should relationships be conducted via social networks? Sure–as long as we don’t forget the face-2-face ones.

    I’m definitely going to subcribe to your podcasts! Can’t believe I haven’t done it before now!

  4. Sal, I’m sorry you had trouble with social networking sites. A long time ago when I was on my first message board we had lots of problems with people getting the wrong idea. So I learned then to watch what I wrote in both emails and online in general. Sometimes I will get angry and write a scathing attack on someone and then delete it all. I have gotten all of my anger out without hurting anyone. Occasionally, I have been involved in a misunderstanding usually about my political leanings. When this happened on another writing critique group the person in question and I settled our differences and remain very good friends despite our political views.

    I now use social networking sites to meet people who are like me. I have amassed a huge group of friends who are mostly writers and published authors. I don’t friend anyone who doesn’t have mutual friends with me, so it’s kind of amazing.:) I also have gotten a chance to have my own radio show due to social networking sites. I hope soon to have a published book and so have cultivated an online presence. Hopefully, all of it is good.:)

    I don’t text much, because I do prefer phone or email. Also I communicate on Facebook a lot. I use Twitter a little bit, but even with Facebook you get notified by email. So it doesn’t cut out the amount of email we get.

  5. I love social networking in that it helps me to keep in touch with friends worldwide who I might not have contact with otherwise. Also during this deployment Marine has been able to access Facebook some and view pictures I have posted while he’s gone and we are able to chat using that feature. ITS GREAT!!!

    The other side of the sword is that I can’t believe some people post the things they do. I mean come on people, really?! Lol

    Relationships though need face to face time. End of story.

  6. Email, texting, social networks, it’s all great — unless you’re doing it while you’re with another living, breathing person whom you are ignoring. Not cool.
    Just wrote something about this in Free Advice For Freshman you might enjoy.

  7. I think the important thing to remember is that anything you put in writing on the Internet or texting is out there forever. So when you reach old age, you don’t want your kids or grandkids finding something you wrote in an angry spree. Short and sweet or say nothing till you speak in person—hopefully alone.

  8. I love social networking but I am way past the dating stage. I think social networking would definitely make dating even harder. Too much watching each others for clues, etc. I would become much more self conscious about what I put out there.

  9. Because I have right/left issues, it makes it very difficult to text. Emails have saved me on more than one occasion. They give me a hard copy that I can use to come back to people if they claim they didn’t receive the message. This is very important when dealing with artists who don’t bother to actually read what I send out. It happens more often than you would believe.

    I am trying very hard to get back into my groove, but it will take some time. I plan to listen to your latest podcast this weekend. I WILL comment on itunes!

    When you mention donations, just what or how much do you mean? You know I will support you in any way I can–within reason! HAHAHA!

  10. You know I might not have been so on-board with texting and facebook until my teenage daughter. I know how difficult it was to talk to my mom and for her to know what was going on in my life as a teen. By texting and facebooking, I have a good handle on my daughter’s friends, her life, and her hardships. What movies, and artists she likes. I have this open insight that is incredible. Back in the day, you just didn’t have that access. She shares herself freely. My family and I all communicate via text, facebook, and now the newest blue tooth dial by voice command in the car. Pretty cool stuff.

    I can see where it can get out of hand too, but I enjoy the parts of it that work for our life.


  11. I definitely have a love hate relationship with technology. My old blog got me in big trouble with a family member I wrote about, and even my anonymous blog has been under attack by someone I know. Words get taken wrong because tone is so hard to read. I’ve definitely had disagreements via email, or dealt with the drama that comes with Facebook. It’s like high school all over again!
    Yet do I quite it-no. I love it too. But I do have to stop and take a break from technology every once in awhile and get back to basics. Simply connecting in person with a friend instead of sending them a hello on Facebook or a text does wonders for the relationship. I definitely worry when I see young kids standing next to each other, texting instead of talking. Technology is a great tool but it definitely can’t replace real life.

  12. err..quit it, not quite it. 🙂

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