The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was “pretty much sick of everything” and followed it with a simple “goodbye.” At this point, I don’t know what that means. Perhaps he’s done with Facebook, perhaps he’s decided to join the Foreign Legion. Whatever his situation, it got me to thinking about not only Facebook and social media in general.
I’m not a fan of Facebook. I realize it can be a useful tool in connecting people who might not otherwise be able to connect. Unfortunately human beings have this uncanny ability to take something useful and rely on it to the point where it does more harm than good. An automobile is essential if you need to drive to Grandma’s house in another town, but when you use it to drive across the street to the store your leg muscles atrophy.
Likewise, I think Facebook and other social media are causing our social skills as a whole to atrophy. I see people every day with their thumbs glued to their phone as they text and check Facebook, all the while ignoring the world around them.
The insidious thing about social media is that it offers us the illusion of contact without the risks that come with genuine interaction. We can shut out what offends us without ever having to explain why. Case in point: I have several friends on Facebook that do not share my political views. They frequently share inflammatory posts that tempt me to unfollow them. But I don’t. While I may vehemently disagree with their stance, I still prefer posts with some actual content to the even more frequent “I’m going to have beans and rice for dinner!”
Inane conversation is certainly not a new invention. People with very little to say have been talking about the weather for centuries. But when that conversation is face to face you still develop and utilize skills that go beyond just the words you use. You observe the body language of the person you are talking to and compliment it with your own body language. They contribute to the conversation with their facial expressions in addition to their own responses. These are skills that we have refined over centuries of human development and now they are being replaced by the easy one-click option of the “like” button.
I’m not suggesting we abandon social media entirely. But I think each of us should consider how we interact with the world. If the entirety of our human interaction is conducted via a screen, then it might be time to turn off Facebook and see what the real world has to offer.