Is Social Media Ruining Relationships? Or Saving the World?
Social Media has begun to define our communications .The rise of smartphones and other mobile devices has allowed Social Media to simply explode. Now we spend our days emailing, texting, Facebooking, tweeting, blipping, posting, Formspringing, checking in and so on. It seems as though no action, thought, or location is unworthy of sharing with our friends and followers. But, the question is asked by those resistant to the change: Aren’t you sacrificing real interaction for all this tweeting? What about talking to real people, having real conversations? Every slow news day has some article saying that a lot of divorces is caused by Facebook, or people who use social media are lonelier, or highlighting some tragedy that involved someone with a Facebook account or Tweeted their suicide.
At first blush, this seem to be a fair question. I do spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m a computer guy – I prefer not to do the bulk of my tweeting from a smartphone. Am I sacrificing relationships? But ultimately, I think this is all silly, and frankly missing the point.
While it’s certainly sad to see someone end their life, and the sadness is acute when done so in a public way – would they have not done so without Twitter? Were suicides less common before people had a way to share it in real time? Are divorces one-seventh more frequent now that spouses can discover infidelity through one ill-timed comment on a wall? And to take the other side and address the "Social Media is a revolution in how people communicate" side…how so? The Egyptian and Iranian revolutions were organized, in part, on Twitter – does this mean they wouldn’t have happened without Twitter?
Look, Social Media is one thing and one thing only: a new tool in the communication arsenal. That’s all it is. It has its strong points and weak points. It has made some things easier, some things harder. It has provided some new ways to do old things. It may, in a small sense, have changed "how" we communicate, but it has not changed the fundamental process.
We are social beings – we like to communicate with one another. We share our day, meals we enjoyed, good ideas, jokes, banter, and yes, flirting and sex talk. This has its strong points and weak points – our social nature is behind our propensity for infidelity, for example. It’s also behind our ability to come together to fight against an oppressor. Without people gathering in taverns to talk and gripe about King George, the founding fathers would have had no standing to do what they ultimately did.
Over the years, we’ve found new ways to do this – Gutenberg gave us the printing press, allowing the first true mass communications (I think the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians would argue this point, but I’m standing my ground). Newspapers were at one point as astonishing an innovation as Twitter. Telegraph, telephones, cell phones, the internet – at one point, these all were new avenues for doing something as old as language: communication. It allowed us to share more information, with more people, more quickly.
And each new communication tool has provided a new way to do basic things – send a love letter, tell a story, complain, make announcements. And as these means of communication have gotten more personal, we’ve found new ways to find information about each other – the jilted spouse finding a love letter or telegraph accidentally left out became the jilted spouse finding a strange number on the cell phone bill, who became the jilted spouse finding a careless posting on their wife or husband’s Facebook wall. Was the first divorce caused by pen or…