THE DEATH OF A CONVERSATION

I’ll be the first person to admit that social media has many benefits. It’s great for promotion, has the ability to catapult you to financial success overnight if used properly, and is an excellent way to stay connected with friends, family and loved ones.

But therein lies the paradox. Social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, to name a few, has not only thrived but exploded in popularity by exploiting the human need to connect with others. It preys on our propensity to be admired and loved, our desire to measure our self-worth by how many likes we get with our selfies (for those of you who don’t know, it means self-taken photos).

Like me please.

Like me please.

I recently had a conversation with a computer repair technician, and you wouldn’t believe some of the stories he told me about social media addiction. Maybe you would. He said one customer brought a computer into his shop to have all her photos backed up on a flash drive, claiming it wouldn’t be a very large job as there were only about 600-odd photos. What the technician found was over 100,000 photos, most of them of the woman’s teenage daughter. Apparently the teen spends many hours at the computer (and on social media), and every time she strikes a different pose (which must be fairly often) she snaps another picture, trying to capture that perfect angle, her best side maybe. Who knows how many of these photos made it onto her Facebook Wall of self-aggrandizement, looking for likes, a sense of self-worth and even a sense of identity from the virtual mirror of social judgment.

I’ll tell you, I have to bite my tongue sometimes to prevent the plethora of profanity that wants to spew forth like an erupting volcano when it comes to describing the devastating effects social media has had, and will continue to have for years to come, on the very fabric of our humanity, the very nature of what it is to be human. For the most part, people don’t talk anymore. They text, they sext, they tweet, they Facebook, they post. Nowadays, if you don’t have 500 Facebook friends, you’re considered a loser. Let me ask you this: How many of your Facebook friends would give you the shirt off their backs, how many would pick you up when you’re feeling down by, heaven forbid, actually calling you, or miracle of miracles, even paying you a visit? I daresay, not many.

The damage has become so prevalent in our society, new addiction terms have sprung up like weeds in an ill-tilled garden: Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD), Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), Problematic Internet Use (PIU) and Compulsive Internet Use (CIU). Shrinks and psychologists alike now have brand-new areas of doctoral degree specialization, vast new fields of study, new addictions to learn about and attempt to cure. It won’t be an easy job, I’ll tell you that. And what kinds of medications will be prescribed?

I think the problem will get much worse before it gets any better. I’m constantly surprised, maybe shocked is a better word, by a culture gone mad with technology. The other day I was having lunch in Wendy’s and couldn’t help but notice four teenagers, kinda’ goth-looking, having lunch together. But they weren’t talking much. No. In this day and age that would be asking too much. In between munching on their meals, they were playing with their smart phones. There was a little dialogue, but I wouldn’t call it intellectually stimulating. “Oh, look,” a girl says, showing her phone to a friend. “Johnny just posted on Facebook. He’s taking a shit right now.” Nowadays, many of the younger generation are growing up with little or no social skills. They can only communicate on Facebook or texting, or whatever social media they use.

The phone was invented to actually call and talk to people. Isn’t it a cruel irony that now that’s the last thing people seem to want to do with their smart phones. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. And, in many ways, it is. But it is also taking away lives, robbing people of their interpersonal skills and ruining lives.

I was stunned the other day, after finishing some office projects (I’m a real estate investment consultant and a writer in case you didn’t know), I gave into temptation and logged into the exciting and socially stimulating world of Facebook and scrolled across the photo of a young attractive female model, who displayed many photos which left little to the imagination. One of her posts said she’s trying to get 30,000 likes before her birthday. Many of the photos were self-aggrandizing, self-identifying, narcissistic selfies. A joke? No, this is the world we now live in.

Skullface poked you.

Skullface poked you.

But it’s not only the younger generation. I see middle-aged, even older people, although seniors are clearly in the minority, glued to smart phones and computers everywhere. Texting while driving has become so fashionable there are flashing neon signs on major highways saying, Please Don’t text and drive.

I have friends who are more comfortable talking to me through social media or texting than a phone conversation. One friend doesn’t even return phone calls or voice mails. She acknowledges me a few days later by liking something I posted on Facebook. Pathetic, isn’t it?

Mothers in the same house with their children (on Facebook at the same time) are liking their posts, offering encouragement and even sharing them with their friends. Whatever happened to going into your kid’s room and spending quality time together? Maybe even suggesting an outing?

I often find the business aspect of social media the most maddening. I have business associates who want me to book a time to talk with them, oftentimes weeks down the road from the time I actually need and want to talk to them. It’s a sad thing, and a sad statement on the way our society has become. We’re almost like mechanized, automaton extensions of the computer. When I get shut down like that, I generally give up and revert back to email, text, Skype ISM, whatever social media they prefer, and the conversation never happens. I deal with it for a few months until it reaches a boiling point. Then I throw my hands in the air in despair and start getting the urge to jump on a plane, fly off and have an adventure; start really living life and connecting with people face to face again.

I’ll admit that emailing, texting and instant messaging are often very efficient in business and saves a lot of needless conversation, especially when you are on deadline and need to get a project finished. But oftentimes, particularly when it involves a conversation with my cover artist or publisher, things just get done quicker through a phone call. Talking to my publisher,  I often learn about new trends in the industry or new marketing opportunities I might otherwise not have discovered. Never mind the actual catching up part. Speaking with my cover artist, often an artist-to-artist conversation inspires a new cover idea or a version of the original design that is far more potent and eye-catching. These things wouldn’t happen without the benefit of that dying art called conversation.

So, please people, once in a while pick up the damn phone will you. Or pay someone a visit. Connect with your friends, family and loved ones on a deep and meaningful level for a change. You might be surprised at how good it makes you feel: or how good it makes them feel.

 

 

2 thoughts on “THE DEATH OF A CONVERSATION

  1. Glad I came across this, it’s completely true. I’m a younger person–Facebook became popular, actually, right when I went to college–and I heard a friend of mine actually utter this statement the other day.

    “I wish I could just turn the call function on my phone off already!”

    She communicates primarily through text and facebook message.

    I think you lose a lot eschewing face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice, communication. The most notable thing, to me, is a certain empathy–hence the popularity of the selfie and other self-obsessed conduct on social media. After all, when you can’t hear or see the other person respond, how do you know when you’re saying too much? The empty yet public void of facebook or twitter is just begging to be filled with your own voice, your own face, etc. And nobody’s there to stop you.

    If you haven’t already, you might want to read Dave Egger’s book The Circle. From this post it sounds like you might enjoy it. It’s vaguely dystopian fiction about social media and the effect it’s having on our culture.

    Thanks for the awesome post! Glad I came across it, and couldn’t agree with you more.

    • Thanks for the insightful comments, EFRussell. Every day I see first-hand how social media, particularly Facebook, is destroying lives. It’s become a big concern of mine. Unfortunately many young people are turning more and more to social media as a means to validate their lives and identities, and as a means of social acceptance. The irony of social media, especially Facebook, is it’s one of the most anti-social things one can do with one’s time. I believe I will take your advice and read The Circle. It sounds like something I might enjoy. Glad you enjoyed the post. WB

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