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The social networking trap

Written by Sai, aka “One of the Guys”

I discovered texting two years ago and now I hardly ever talk on the phone. Of course this irritates my wife to no end. “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, and instead enjoying the work being done for them. 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 even more 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 problems with communication via email. Arguments, disagreements, worries about job inquiries, even friendships lost! Many because tone, inflection, emphasis, sarcasm, and  humor all get lost when the written word isn’t carefully crafted; 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 was 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 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.

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 my kids, is that they should feel like the only one 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.
How do you think technology fits into personal relationships?

How do you use it?

What do you like about it?

What do you dislike about it?

Where do you think it’s headed?

13 Comments on The social networking trap

  1. I agree with you totally, my kids always want to have long drawn out conversations via txt and I’m thinking, “Can’t we talk on the phone? My fingers are getting sore and I hate T9!” My youngest especially likes to fight via txt. That’s so fun. Not. I also think we’ve gotten lazy and want to do it the easy way, but you’re right, so many nuances get lost when it’s via email or txt. I think sometimes we need to ditch the technology and attend to what matters, even if it’s hard.

    Great post!

  2. Well hello there!! Gosh it has been quite some time since I actually commented here! Not that I didn’t read it, I did, but I lacked giving a response to it *sigh*. I’m slowly catching up with the blogs I follow now.

    I totally understand what you’re saying and I agree. It feels like technology is shaping and forming how we live our lives. Of course you make the choice to let it form and shape your life. It has to happen to a certain degree tho, but we must not forget that there is a whole other world then only the virtual world. But with things like e.g. internet on mobile phones it’s becoming more difficult to shut it out your life completely. Again it is a choice you make to constantly ping/text/check emails etc etc. I’m not a person who likes to talk on the phone for hours. I rather see you in person or I text/email. It’s like you said, you have to switch gears and get into a different mindset, whereas with texting/emailing, you can do it in your own time. Personally I haven’t got troubles with nuances getting lost in my emails/text, but that’s probably I kinda write my emails/text in the way I talk. I ramble and illustrate my words with emoticons like ^_^, -_-” etc etc. Sometimes when I have things on mind and write more serious, people often ask me if something’s wrong haha.

    Either way, it’s funny how you can see a link in this all. You have a e.g. a new development, people need to get used to it, people start to take it for granted (maybe even misusing it), people get in trouble with it or get bored with it….so people search for something new or update it. Okay this is kind of black & white and more geared towards technology haha. However I think you can find a similar process in more elements in life.

    I shall stop with my rambling! Awesome post…as usual 😀

    Ciaooo!!

  3. Good post here! I agree with all this technology taking the “relationship” out of relationships! Similar to enjoying a glass of high-end wine, you use all of your senses to explore & taste the fruit.
    We need to taste the fruit of our relationships with ALL of our senses, not just our finger tips!

  4. So far I’ve avoided being a “texter”. At least with email, I can compose complete sentences. Though you are right that written word is often misunderstood without inflection, tone and context which voice provides.

    Also, I think people who “text” do expect an immediate response; pressure I definitely don’t need in my life at this stage.

    If someone needs me right away, they know they best use the phone.

  5. Although not anti-technology (what would be the point?), I would describe myself as a-technological. I try to keep my life as simple as possible, and focus on the things that matter to me-beauty, freedom, happiness, love. I find none of this requires any new or advanced technology. I never used a computer until about a year ago, when I decided blogging was an easier and less time-consuming way of sharing my aphorisms than going the publishing route. My blogging and computer skills are the most elementary possible, and I have no desire to “improve” them. I’m satisfied with knowing less rather than more, as long as I can connect with wonderful people like you and have some medium available to share my spirit and thoughts.

  6. It’s so true that we love automatics. I’d like to call myself an e-mailer. I don’t like texting. I only prefer it when I’m not comfortable talking to the person. For instance, there is this coworker I’m upset with, and last night she texted me and asked what upset me, I didn’t respond. Then she called. I canceled her call and replied through text. I told her what upset me and I told her not to call me. So we had that conversation through text because at that time, I was not comfortable talking to her. It’s either I’d be too bitchy towards her or I may not speak at all. I’m like that when I’m upset with someone.

    But other than that, I’m too lazy to text. I cannot say technology has affected my life in a negative way though. At least not yet. 🙂

  7. What a beautiful post, Sai!

    I’ve always followed my father’s advice (bless his soul) – he always told me, everything in life is good for you if done in moderation. I guess you can apply that to technology as well. I lead a very balance life and try to do as much things as I could the “old school way.” In as much as I love the convenience that modern technology provides, I’m an old fashion girl at heart. I still write letters via air mail and I make an effort, if time permits to keep in touch with friends over a cup of coffee. I do not believe in micro-wave dinners (I cook from scratch) no matter how hectic my work is and if I have something to say from the heart, I refuse to use the phone or email.

    What I do love about computer and internet is the information available at hand. (Although I must admit, there are a lot of rubbish information out there.) I could always browse the net for recipes, I can book a holiday on-line, find information for certain events, etc. This makes life a little less tidious specially during days when I’m running around like a headless chicken. lol

    I don’t think I dislike anything about computer/modern technology because if there’s something that makes me uncomfortable I tend to just avoid it. Same applies to our normal life. I don’t get involve in bickering in social networking neither in my real life social arena. If I want peace and quiet, I turn off my phone. I’ve never been a fan of texting and although I have a mobile phone at hand all the time, it’s never been my favourite gadget but it’s a necessity with the job I do.

    PS It’s really funny that despite being old fashion at heart, I met my better half via on-line. Technology have their beautiful uses from time to time. 🙂

  8. In personal relationships, technology can jump up and bite you in the ass if you are not careful. Tiger Woods (whom I now refer to as “old woody”) is a perfect example of that!

  9. i definitely embrace the automatic, effecient nature of electronic communication. i’d die without it. but it does have to be balanced with face time. i still find myself picking up the phone and trying to talk to talk it out or setting up a face-to-face meeting at work rather than responding to a chain of emails. and i still say, we need to talk when it comes to personal relationships.

    but i also recognize i can only be old school to a point, and that if i wanted to communicate with anyone who is important to me, i need to adapt and make it work whatever their preferred medium is.

  10. I think when used PROPERLY social networking sites are AWESOME. I love my facebook account. And much like you I prefer to text as opposed to talking.

    But, when it comes to relationships, I need to be with someone who understand, accepts, and even LOVES the way I interact with people on the internet. And that includes my social networking activities.

    of course it is absolutely essential to share face one-on-one REAL time with your partner!

  11. As always, a wonderful read, Sai–and as usual, you raised a lot of great points and questions. I teach online, I blog, and I belong to quite a few social networking sites, so electronic communication is pervasive in just about every aspect of my life. Particularly in the area of teaching, I have seen so many miscommunications occur–because we have to rely entirely on the written word. Many people might not realize it, but the facial expressions, vocal intonations, and body language are an important part of overall communication. When we lose all of that, meaning can easily be lost or misunderstood.

    Therefore, I think it is extremely important that people read, and reread their electronic communication before hitting ‘send.’ And if it is a very important piece of communication, I almost always ask Les to read and perhaps edit before sending. I find it can help to use emoticons when communication online–as that can clarify meaning. And when I am using sarcasm and want to make sure that’s understood, I might use something like what I am saying. That can work too!

    I think we are going to be going even further in the way of electronic communication–and I think that has both positives and negatives. Sometimes, it really is good to hear that voice on the phone–or better yet, sit and talk to a friend, face-2-face, over coffee or a glass of wine.

    Take care,

    Melinda

  12. I hate technology. I hate buttons. I hate blinky things. You will still find me on the internet at all hours of the day. Why? I guess you’re right. I love the automatic lifestyle. Facebook…nothing has ever made party planning easier. I can put my writing out through my blog and reach thousands. I’ve connected with some wonderful people through it. The writing group that I belong to…that I would be lost without…was found through the internet. Booking trips, finding shows, finding health information…

    As much as I hate all the blinky stuff, it has enriched my real life in ways that I’m positive would never have occurred if I were living completely offline.

  13. I agree with you! I went on a date once with a guy who had never called me on the phone… he had only texted. Now we had some great (as great as can be expected) conversations thru text but when on the actual date it was like he didn’t know how to just talk to me.

    I love text, email, facebook, etc but I do think it is cutting down on our communication skills as a society.

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