Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do We Have a Failure to Communicate?

I've had several different conversations with friends lately wondering about whether our ability to communicate is being eroded in the texting/e-mail/Facebook messaging/G-chat/Skype/direct messages/can on a string era.

We have more tools for communication than ever. Social media makes it possible to instantly know what our friends are up to and even see when they're nearby. We share books and articles and TV shows and ideas faster than ever before.

But it's also just as easy to let the absence of communication take the place of an actual conversation. Instead of having to let someone down easy over the phone, now we just don't return their e-mail. Instead of having difficult conversations, we exchange some texts and leave it at that.

The idea that technology is eroding our communication skills isn't new, and the introduction of the telephone and television were accompanied by similar hand-wringing. But what are we losing?

One of my friends believes that social media strengthens weak connections but weakens strong connections. My mom believes social media insulates people from having difficult conversations and everyone is getting worse at them. I believe I may just be getting old.

What do you think? Is social media eroding or strengthening our ability to communicate?

Art: Junge Frau am Telefon - Max Schüler


Anonymous said...

I think it all began with voice mail and answering machines. Once we figured out that we could phone someone, knowing they weren't home, and leave a message so we didn't have to talk to them, it was all over :)

And I love it.

Marian Allen said...

Your mom and your friend make interesting points. Technology is evolving more quickly than our social structures of courtesy. We need to fall back on Miss Manners' general rule: Consider the other person.

I think people who want to bug out will welcome social media as a tool to do that. People who want to make and strengthen connections will do that.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

April Brown said...

It's good and bad.

One website states they reply to mailed letters by mail because it is a courtesy to do so. However, email doesn't deserve the same courtesy. And they may, or may not reply.

For the disabled, email is an opportunity to talk and be heard.

No one can hear me stutter, or mispronounce a word. Whether I've never heard it said correctly, or couldn't so so to begin with. I can't mis-hear, and misinterpret what someone is saying. If I am confused, I can look back over the written words.

My vision is bad too. So, in face to face confrontations, I often miss the body language, and the shades. I don't read minds well. In an email, I can only read what is there.

As for visiting, well, due to my other disabilities, it is far easier for me to visit online. I can't drive, and walking, with vision and hearing difficulties is often limited.

For the disabled of all kinds, social media throws open all the doors and windows and gives almost an air of equality among people.

If only the abled would share and understand.

Jenny Maloney said...

I heard someone say recently that Twitter specifically - but this can be expanded to social media in general - was like a cocktail party with everyone talking and no one listening.

Talking and listening are the basic elements of communication.

I've been mulling the Twitter comment around in my head since then, and it occured to me that people who are 'successful' at social media are the ones who are obviously listening. The ones who are communicating and not just 'pimping their work.' Superstars like Neil Gaiman respond - when they can - to anyone's tweets or questions. They interact. And Nathan does the same thing.

I think communication still exists on the interwebz, it's just a matter of finding out what the new interaction rules are. You could make the argument that the letter eroded communication when it was invented. (Reading a piece of paper instead of someone's face?!)But really it was just a new form that had to be figured out. Electronic communication is just sorting itself right now.

For example: is ROFLMAO showing you're listening and participating in the conversation...or is that the new, polite head nod of "I'm-not-really-paying-attention-but-have-to-look-like-I'm-still-engaged"?

JeffO said...

I can't say for sure. But I know the thing that drives me absolutely crazy is when you're out in a bar or restaurant and all you see are people pulling smart phones and blackberries and the like out of their pockets, checking texts, tweeting, etc., etc., and totally ignoring the people around them.

"Strengthens weak connections and weakens strong connections" - this may be what it is right here.

Richard Gibson said...

Between people who WANT to communicate, social and electronic media are tools to enhance that communication. For those who don't want to, are afraid to, are too busy to, or whatever, it serves their purpose, which is not real communication but just being "in touch."

Matthew MacNish said...

Neither. It's evolving them.

Mystery Robin said...

"strengthens weak connections and weakens strong ones"
That is brilliant. I definitely am better friends with some people than I would be if social media didn't exist. I also am in touch with people I love dearly but who live far away.
But strong connections, and good friends, do sometimes get flattened out with everyone else into the friend wall, twitter stream, etc...

What I think it gives us, is this. When you leave a job, for instance, and you promise to keep in touch with everyone, it doesn't take long to realize how hard that is. Part of it is not sharing the day to day of our lives - why you came in late, when your kid is sick, how good Mad Men was last night... you're left with the important stuff that seems worthy of a conversation to catch up over email or in person. But so much of life is the little stuff - and social media gives that back to us.

I kind of think that the people we're avoiding hard conversations with, we'd have just avoided a different way years ago - I mean, there were so many ways to snub someone or end a relationship in Victorian England without ever a harsh word.

Nickie said...

I agree with Mystery Robin and Richard. Social media can be a great way to communicate with people that you WANT to keep in touch with. For example, one of my sisters teaches English overseas. Between email, FB, and Skype we actually get to stay in touch pretty well. If I was relying on good ol' fashion mail to stay in touch, it would likely be several weeks between messages. With social media, we can chat right after catching up on our favorite shows, or she can message me something funny that just happened. Hand wringing indeed.

D.G. Hudson said...

Social media is like any communication device. It's only as effective as the person using it.

Social skills take a little more effort than sending off a text or an email. In face to face communication, there can be no anons.

Social media has such high incidences of 'high school' behaviour. Wonder why that is?

Perhaps with 'age', Nathan, you're starting to see the shallowness behind social media. It may have its usage for marketing purposes or for family connections, but for conducting social intereactions, it's sorely lacking.

Meredith Towbin said...

Totally agree with JeffO. I have sat at the dinner table with family/friends and every single one of them is on their smart phones. My husband has actually texted me something while I'm sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HIM on the couch. Um, maybe I shouldn't admit that. But it's getting out of control!

Corrie Howe said...

I agree with the comments left so far. I do keep up with people that it would be hard to stay in touch with if I didn't have social media.

It also allows me to tell someone quickly that I'm thinking about them (praying for their loved ones currently in surgery, missing them while they are on vacation, etc.) while I am. Or to not intrude on them unnecessarily.

I've discovered other uses for texting. My husband and used to be able to spell words and our kids didn't know we were considering stopping for ice cream. When they started reading and spelling, I figured I can text my husband now.

On the negative side. I don't know what is going on with my kids by listening to their conversations in the car (unless I confiscate the phones). I lose opportunities for exercise when I call my husband two levels below instead of walking down two flights of steps.

Two Flights Down said...

Honestly, I see a lot of good points here. One thing I have to say, though, as an introvert, I feel like social media has helped me tremendously with strengthening good, solid relationships. There is, indeed, a lot of talking and no listening as someone pointed out. I have many "friends" on FB who never gave me a second thought in high school who seem to just want to show off their lives now. On the up side, those relationships I actually cared about throughout high school and college, I would have stressed myself out trying to maintain without social media. I have a hard time communicating by speaking, especially in crowds. I need time to think about my words, and social media allows me to do that in a way that in a way that is received as soon ad I am ready, unlike snail mail. The few close friends I have are far away. Through private messages, we are allowed to be our quirky selves and make plans for our next adventure to meet up. Since I am incredibly stressed out with phone calls and snail mail takes so long, I don't see me maintaining these relationships the way I do now without social media. In conclusion, it depends on your personality and how you utilize the tools before you.

Gregory K. said...

Not to sound like a parsing politician, but it isn't social media that does these things: it's how we use it (or not) and how we allow it to replace other forms of communication (or not). For me, social media certainly strengthens distant connections. If I let it replace meeting my local friends... or even having phone convos with them... I could see it weakening those bonds. But I choose not to.

Social media also means that I can have meaningful conversations with people I feel connected to 24/7 and not confined by physical borders. It is comforting AND broadening. And it's simply another way to communicate, not the only one. We have agency over it, not the other way around.

Peggy Eddleman said...

For me-- strengthens. I'm much more of a social person now that there's so many ways to be social that are so easy. That, and I'm much more likely to say thank you for all the little things when it's as easy as a tweet, an email, or a fb message. If I had to rely on writing a thank you note and then mailing it, I'd be thanking a whole lot less people! said...

I think it totally depends on how you WANT to use social media. My hope, always, is that I am interacting with people who are real and who want to engage in ongoing, thoughtful conversations. I ignore those comments that are nothing more than abbreviation - ROFLMFAO, for example - because responses like these are empty letters; they contribute nothing. I think it is up to us to build a community around ourselves that models what we're after on social media platforms. Conversations can be made surface-level very quickly, but interacting on social media doesn't have to be all about abbreviations and empty chatter. Besides, I still treasure the good old coffee date with a friend and in-person interactions as much as possible. Perhaps another question to ask is, Is social media making us more lonely?

Steven J. Wangsness said...

We definitely are losing our ability to have difficult conversations. But I also think that for the more timid/shy among us, our capability to hold our own against stronger personality types may be improved. So there's good and bad.

I do wonder, however, if my son will ever develop the ability to talk to girls if he doesn't get off the computer more.

Anonymous said...

Since I write at home, I tend to not talk much, and I've noticed that when
I'm around people, I keep to myself more than I used to. In the few weeks I've been on Twitter, I find myself being more confident with others, even in real life. So I'd say it's a good thing for me.

Bryan Russell said...

Online communication, like most things, is a little weird. I have wonderful friends, in far corners of the world, who I know only because of these means of communication. To quote You've Got Mail: "The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings."

And that's the beauty of these wonderful, tangled interconnections that transport you around the world in an instant. Yet, at the same time, there's an element of distance. There's nothing quite like a great conversation. And I like what your friend said, except I tend to see it as bringing far people near, and pushing near people far. The beauty of these new forms of communication is that it allows you to connect with people outside your realm of personal conversation, but if you use it with people who are actually within that circle of possible conversation (a co-worker on the other side of the room, for example) you're actually creating distance, interweaving the ether between you. What could be personal is less so.

To me, it's all a matter of orientation.

Christina Kerby said...

I've definitely noticed that digital media has taken a toll on my attention span, and that certainly impacts my communication skills at work, and in my own attempts to write at home. I have trouble tuning out the allure of distracting little alarms and shiny new messages in my inbox.

As a parent, I'm concerned with some of the challenges my son will face growing up in the digital communications age. I have a 13 year old cousin who I recently spent time with, and she didn't say a word to me the entire day, but at the end of the day, tagged me in a post on Facebook. I think that kids (ok, adults too) need to learn to communicate face to face before learning to use tools like Facebook and Twitter, otherwise they may bypass that important skill altogether.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure. Even with phone lines, you could simply not answer the phone or just never call someone. If you don't live near each other, it's possible you may never run into someone you're on the outs with someone. It's weird, but I think social media can heal relationships too. I had a friend, a very old friend, who we had sort-of-on-purpose stopped speaking. We didn't really have a fight or anything but I just got the feeling she didn't want to be friends anymore, and I was tired of always calling her, always inviting her to things. Then, one day she friended me on Facebook. You could be cynical and say it was not a means of getting back in touch, but just that she passively wanted to brag about what's up to. I don't know. But I feel like that connection is back and there is a possibility we might really get back in touch. I'm leaving the ball in her court, since I felt she was the one who drifted away in the first place. But sometimes I do miss her and I like seeing what she's up to from a facebook distance. Is that weird?

Maya said...

Bryan Russel, I loved what you said and I think that really hits the nail on the head.

Also, off topic but I'm always quoting that movie. I know I'm such a girl, but I think it's highly underrated and has a lot of quirky little things in it that I love. I like the line when her store closes and she says "Soon it will be something really a Baby Gap." I think of it every time an independent store I frequent closes (which happens a lot, sadly!)

Rick Daley said...

I think technology strengthens our ability to communicate because it enables more people to reach out to larger audiences. To erode would be to lessen the overall communication.

It makes a noticeable impact on the style of communication, favoring brevity and, in some cases, lacking courtesy. It's more difficult to be rude to someone standing in front of you.

anya* said...

Weakens. Most everything. I am a stay at home mom/writer/bogger and a friend I were just talking about what moms did before blogs and the internet in general. How limiting to not post pictures of your babies for people to comment on!

But I think it was probably better. You know, you would actually know your neighbors. It is a very weird society we live in. I don't know what I would do if I turned off social networking completely. I stopped FB, but everything? Man, that would change my day to day life drastically.

Randy said...

What do you mean co . . . mu . . . ni. You know, that big word you used.

Robena Grant said...

Communication, to be effective, has to be a two way street and that doesn't mean clicking a like button or doing a retweet. It means actually participating by commenting or discussing. I don't have thousands of FB friends but I take an interest in every person I do have and I understand tweeting doesn't really work for me because I'm too long-winded. : )

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

By far the biggest difference I've observed is the attitude toward privacy. People used to go into a room and close the door to have a phone call; it was considered rude to listen to others talking on the phone. Now everyone shouts into phones in every public corner; everyone overhears everything and nobody bats an eye at that. And the amount of info people voluntarily post online is amazing.

As far as communication--
I have several email correspondences right now that are deeper than what I ever had through writing letters. Letters suffered from the length of time it took to receive them, and the difficulty in remembering what questions you wrote that the other person was answering (whereas, with email, you can easily retain a copy of what you sent, or a copy can be included along with your reply.) Because the delivery time is short, it's easier for me to keep up (and keep others up) with what's going on in our lives in real time.

Short messages, like texting or Twitter, are best for conveying important, brief info: "I'm running 20 minutes late." "We just had an earthquake." They're not for deep conversations.

As for having difficult conversations: in my experience, people have always avoided them! I remember the time before the internet. People were not running around eager to have tough or awkward interactions with each other. They were just as capable of avoiding each other in person or on the phone as they are now.

I'm not on Facebook at all, so I've self-selected out of whatever that is doing to communications culture.

Lauren Monahan said...

I think Nickie above touched on my initial thought. I'm much more connected to the people I want to connect with (even if they live on a different coast or continent as many of them do) as opposed to whoever is around. I'm not sure it's a good thing. I tend to want to talk to people who are more like me, and being forced to communicate more with different people because of proximity might broaden me more. I've heard it speculated that this aspect of social media has contributed to an increased polarization in politics. I'm inclined to agree. Thanks for another fun dialogue Nathan & crew of interesting thinkers.

Diana said...

There are two drawbacks to both Twitter and Facebook. One they are "private" so it is difficult to meet new people eg people unknown to you and your friends.

And two it is difficult to have an in depth conversation. You're limited to 140 characters or however many facebook allows in a comment. And if you aren't logged into them 24/7, then you miss conversations altogether. You can't log in once a day or every few days and quickly scan through what happened while you were logged off.

Whereas with blogger and forums, you can have in depth conversations with anyone who wants to join the conversation. They aren't limited to your friends or followers.

You know what would be really neat to see is a world wide forum where anyone can join in and have a conversation on whatever topic interests them. All in one place without having to search the internet looking for people to talk to. That would be cool. That is something that I would be interested in joining.

The blogosphere comes close to that, but it can be difficult to find all blogs for all the subjects that interest me.

So yes, I agree that social media weakens strong connections.

Nancy Kelley said...

I believe social media amplifies our natural tendencies. If we are excellent verbal communicators, the extra tools social media offers will simply enhance our ability to keep in touch with people. Those who habitually tell everyone every detail of their lives become the plague of Facebook and Twitter, with constant status updates and pictures that leave all their friends muttering, "Ask me if I care?" And people who would avoid an unpleasant conversation now have five new ways to ignore the people they don't want to talk to.

Sheila Cull said...

Strengthening for sure! What we're sharing is a global communication evolution, including, Facebook, text messaging, and the plain old fashioned email.

It's marvelous. As a matter of fact, I'm going to listen to "Revolution" by the Beatles, now!

Sheila Cull

Christine London said...

Funny you chose this topic today. Simpatico indeed."Laundry List Be Damned" is the title of London Blog today
--takes a look at the lack of meaningful communication in the dating life. While these modern electronic tools have opened up a world of content--has it not diluted that which is dearest? Rather than repeat what is said over there, suffice to say our ability to woo has turned into staccato bursts of cliches.
I have to agree that we are losing the ability for deep meaningful exchanges. It is no longer expected, neh--tolerated. Our society has turned ADD. Soundbites, spin,abbreviations. Yes--it has been said that it is more difficult to write something with brevity (succinctly), but that would be giving far to much credit to the vast majority of what transpires on social sites these days.
We live in superficial times when anything approaching thoughtful or in depth is seen as boring.
Christine London

Naja Tau said...

I think it's whatever you make of it. It's a tool. If you want to distance yourself with it, you can. If you want to strengthen weak connections with it, you can. No technology will alter the many different types of human personality. ;)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting because I have found with social media that I am closer than ever with my business, networking, writer buds and farther away from my family. The reason for this is likely due to the fact that I keep my private and professional lives seperate but have found at the end of the day I typically only have time for one. And the texting without responding when it comes to dating drives me bananas.

I do think social media creates distance between us. It takes real effort to have an intellegent, intense conversation and all of a few seconds to text or reply to social media.

What are we loosing? The human connection. Kids are now being taught in some schools on how to interact with each other face to face without technology. More psychologists are treating social disorders with individuals fearful of interacting with other people.

As much as I love my blackberry, it cannot and will not replace talking with one of my best buds over coffee or wine. And it is through those human interactions and conversations that we as people grow.

Maggie Mae Gallagher

Christine London said...

Bravo Maggie :)

Linda Strawn said...

I love it for the fact it has allowed me to get back in touch with people I haven't seen in years and has given me the opportunity to meet like-minded people I wouldn't have crossed paths with otherwise. I've made wonderful friends online. On the other hand, technology can't replace good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction and we need to make sure it never does (i.e. if you're in the same room, don't get on your laptops and email each other).

Anonymous said...

I find my mind wondering to this topic often. I also enjoy reading what you decide to write about it considering that your occupation discerns this type of onslaught of ways to reach people constantly.

My personal feeling on this are so definite now. I observe that instead of us having more meaningful relationships we are having superficial. Nothing will replace being able to speak with someone personally, seeing their eyes, their expressions and be able to gauge their reaction.

Yes, there are the time savers such as texting so we don't have to get into a conversation, and can get right down to facts. Then there's the benefit of behind a computer screen and having playful flirting and having fun, intriquing, turn-on banter, with someone you're interested in that might not otherwise happen, face to face. Now, that's good stuff.

But other than that, I could go back to the phone only and live back in time before all the tech.
This I write while

Unknown said...


Of course we are weakening those communication skills.

We have been weakening them and communicating less meaningfully ever since the invention of the club. Then, instead of finger-clawing, punching, ripping opponents, we clubbed them. Much less intimate.

Every invention has increased the distance we need to be from anyone we want to bring down.

It's called progress, not failure. At the same time, we have magnified our abilities to control others through abstract social cues; we can now make others mouth-foaming mad by posting dumb and insensitive stuff on social media. Without capital letters when there should be. To make them really, really mad.

You think we have a failure to communicate? Want to take that outside?


Neurotic Workaholic said...

I think that social media has turned communication (particularly in terms of texting, Twitter, and Facebook) into a form of entertainment. It's not just about the desire to constantly communicate or to be constantly connected; it's about the desire to be constantly entertained. Instead of spending hours watching TV, people are spending more and more and more hours on their phones and laptops in order to entertain themselves. (But we do still watch a lot of TV, myself included.)

J.J. Bennett said...

I think it all depends on the person. I know people who communicate better on social networking sites than in person (and that goes both ways). Some people are really into social networking while others are not. I know people who want nothing to do with social networks all together and find them to be intrusive.

In business social networking can have it's positives but I think the negatives are just as strong as the positives. From personal experience, I no longer have a working relationship with one person because of a lack of communication on line. They're missing the boat because it's costing them money in the end. It's the sad truth these day's with technology.

macswriter said...

I agree with your mom.

J.C. Martin said...

"strengthens weak connections and weakens strong ones" What a fantastic way to describe it! I certainly comment on the Facebook status of random people I may not speak to at all without social media. On the flip side, rather than a more personal phone call or face-to-face meet-up, we've relegated our best friends and family to our e-mail inbox.

However, I personally feel that all these new means of communication do more good than bad. Old friends and close family halfway across the world are just an e-mail/instant message away--much cheaper than a long-distance phone call!

wendy said...

I'm not very social on any level, but wouldn't social networking widen one's chances of networking with people of all ages? A bit? One of my Twitter followers is so different to me it's laughable. Why on earth she's following me, I can't work out, but she's loyally stuck with me for a few years. Every now and again we tweet each other, warily, as if walking on eggshels. But in real life, as apart from this virtual life, I don't think we'd communicate at all. So social media does open up opportunities to communicate with a wider range of people, I think.

And, great this! As many here aready know - especially the blog owner - many lit agents & publishers are happy to receive emailed submissions from writers, and will respond in a few days, usually. Whereas in the days of snail mail, months would pass, sometimes, before you heard back.

I think the emphasis on super-fast written communication must improve the written skills and learning how to interpret the finer meaning of messages received. And - let's face it - it's so much fun. At the same time our verbals skills wouldn't have a chance to lax as we use them to communicate with people around as all day long. I see social networking as a win-win kind of thing. I don't see it eroding the skills we have or weakening connections if we put time and effort into maintaining them.

Deborah Taylor-French said...

Being a mother of a teenager, I see social media used in several ways by youth.

For my daughter, Facebook has increased the bullying she receives.

She sees teens using Facebook as a place to break up with a girlfriend or friend simply by blocking that person.

Texting has replaced nail biting and knitting for those who are social anxious. They keep their hands on their phones and do not look anyone in the face or start and continue conversations, difficult or pleasant.

The plus side is that some teens use social media at college to keep old friends while meeting new, and to stay in-touch with family.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Nathan: you know I like nothing more than encouraging social angst and hand wringing about any number of subjects but particularly ebooks.

Still, I'm afraid there is really only one clear answer that comes to mind for me on this question:

Nathan, you're just getting old.

It happens to the best and the worst of us. It happened to me years ago, in terms of technology. I still miss banging things out on a typewriter, saving the carbon copy in a box, and sending the full manuscript in 25% or greater rag content to my agent. In fact, for my first novel, at 17-18, I hitchhiked to Milwaukee with a sign written on the inside cover of the box in ash from an extinguished cigarette left near a highway underpass, to hand deliver my manuscript.

Those were the days when you had a true, personal, face-to-face relationship with your agent, or, at least, I did. When a query was a question in a friendly, newsy letter, as your agent was your friend or mentor and not just someone hoping to benefit from your success.

So. Don't get me started, Nathan. I still write the first draft of my novels out in longhand, with a Shaefer fountain pen from the 1930s, on a marbled composition notebook (when I can't afford or no one buys me Moleskin notebooks).

And I still, on a few occasions, write a letter to a friend with the same hand.

Lauren Monahan said...

Another thought. Yesterday I was thinking about how much I liked this conversation, and then realized that no one has interacted with anyone but Nathan here. And I classified it as a "conversation" in my head. New? Not new to this technoworld? Interesting to me nonetheless. (note: I didn't reference anyone else's comments here, either. Just talking at the void.)

Criticus said...

I've already declared myself in the Franzen camp :)

Peter Dudley said...

I think social media strengthens bonds and communication.

I hate the telephone because it interrupts me. It takes me out of what I'm doing and forces me to pay attention to it, even if I don't answer it.

Social media sits in the background, and people don't expect me to answer them RIGHT THIS MINUTE BECAUSE CAN'T YOU HEAR THE DAMN PHONE RINGING. It allows people to drift in and out of conversations at time and access allow.

The difference that social media brings, of course, is worldwide asynchronous sharing. You can take any conversation and share it with someone you think will be interested--no matter where they are, no matter when they connect.

I think the difficulty social media will face as it matures, is in bullshit detection. We've already seen cases of companies hiring people to write fake reviews. It's not so hard to buy a hundred thousand "likes" of your page, I'm guessing. And we all know how fast misinformation can spread through social media.

Protocols and etiquette will evolve, as will systems, that help. Social media both strengthens and weakens connections. It enables connections that were impossible before. And it obviates other connections that we couldn't live without in the past.

I think it's wonderful.

Michele Shaw said...

I KNOW I'm getting old, but I do think a generation brought up with so many forms of communication that don't require face to face interaction may be handicapped. Learning to read physical cues and voice inflection is a big part of communicating. And I agree, not having to face tough and awkward situations keeps people from learning how to deal. It's part of life and as important as learning ABC's.

Helen W. Mallon said...

I dunno, but it is cutting into my reading time!! It's all very addictive, and it's driven by the incredible social impulse we humans have. I also think our need for physical contact (from the sexual to the fraternal to the maternal) is so strong that it will send us from our computers, starved for contact.

DearHelenHartman said...

The assumption is that people were good at talking to each other before social media. Just like now, some were, some weren't. Watch a sit com from 50 years ago, all of them have a show about how people have lost the art of conversation.

I am in touch with family, old friends, work colleagues, total strangers and friends we only know online every day. I know the details of their lives, if I want to. And I share mine.
Maybe people don't talk like they used to but many connect through technology in ways a conversation that occurred as time and nearness allowed never could.

Jill of All Trades said...

I so agree with your mother in that regard, and yes, we are all getting a bit older. I can totally see the "strengthens weak connections but weakens strong connections".

For me it is connecting to an old friend, tentatively and rekindling the friendship, and then the dissolution of a relationship of my sister and I over a message she sent, via FB. Our only communication now is WWF, very sad.

Another is that I have been actively writing to a pen pal for over 40 years, faithfully, until about 5 years ago when email came into the picture. We both have slacked to almost non-existent communication, except email or FB.

I think it is all evolving and changing and we are in the infancy of it all. I mean we have the ability to hide in plain sight here with monitoring the phone and messages.

paula shene said...

I have found social media a blessing. My lifestyle is extremely hectic - I have a husband with dementia like symptoms due to a car accident; myself, dealing with cancer aftermath diseases, and my immediate, and extended family scattered all over the United States.

There is always one or two on line, and our family will quickly let each other know there is a need or a joy.

For myself, with small windows of time, writing, promoting, care giving, it is a boom.

Mira said...

Getting old? At 31? Or is it 32? Either way, sorry, but that made me smile. You know you're getting old when your body begins to get grumpy. What you are feeling are the pangs of perspective, imho.

I agree with so many posts here, I'd just credit them, if there weren't so many.

I think social media is fantastic. Instant communication worldwide will is changing the world, and people are connecting more than they ever did. It may not help people learn to be intimate, but that has more to do with the people themselves. Not everyone is comfortable with intimacy. But for those who are, the access is unprecedented.

I'd never go back to the world of ink and quill. There is no comparision to the amount of letter writing, both long and short, that e-mail facilitates.

There is nothing that exists in the world today that will benefit mankind more than the internet and the opportunities for people to connect. That's what I believe, anyway. :)

So, bravo Social Media!

Dangerous Don said...

Only multi-taskers will succeed. As the social media exert their full Darwinian power, mono-taskers will gradually die out. Things like "focus" and "concentration" and even "day-dreaming" will be distant memories from generations past, understood only by historians.

Gretchen said...

I quite agree with both your friend and your mom. This is not to say that I think social media is inherently bad - Facebook connected me to a woman who is my best friend - it's just that it allows us such an easy way out.

When I taught high school, I once asked a student who was texting back and forth with a girl, "Why don't you just call her if you have so much to say?" (I really didn't get it.) His response? "Because conversations are so ... awkward!" It was a very enlightening interaction for me. Now boys can just ask a girl on a date via text, and the girl can let him down without feeling as bad about it. This definitely doesn't force us to develop some real communication skills, I think.

Social media also insulates us from the feelings of others. People often say harsher things via email than they would ever say if they had to look you in the eye. I hate this about the internet.

And lastly, one of my big pet peeves is emoticons. Via text or email? Okay. But in a blog post or article? Really?? This allows us to be bad writers (If you can't tell I'm being sarcastic, maybe I need to clarify it in my writing, not with a smiley!), and it asks so much less of the reader. Can we not expect readers to have some critical thinking skills? Please? Can't they be expected to make an interpretation on their own? Emoticons just dumb things down for the reader, and ask so much less of the writer.

Charmaine Clancy said...

There are people who love to communicate in person or traditionally by writing long letters. They will have something to grieve. I've personally always been one who hates phone calls and never writes and just all round isn't social. But, with online communication, I'm very social, so it benefits me.

E.B. Black said...

I had less friends before the internet and would be completely alone now if it wasn't for the internet. It's not that all my friends are on the internet, it's that I found out about them that way. I live in a small town and have heard about clubs and groups because of the internet and met many people that way that I've been friends with in person. I disagree entirely. If it wasn't for the internet and text messaging and all of that, there would be some of us all alone, with no communication at all in our lives, struggling to get somewhere.

I went to church, frustrated for many years of my life that the only friends I could make were little old ladies when I'm still in my twenties. I'm very, very thankful to the internet for giving me so many opportunities to communicate with others, including fellow authors and beta readers and editors and agents.

I disagree entirely. Communication is at an all time high.

Richard said...

Nathan - I actually thought this very thing 12 years ago ... I was a junior in high school and the "social network" of the day was AIM. I had been gone all weekend and came home to find out, via AIM, that a classmate had killed himself.

What happened next is this very phenomenon. The conversations that should have been happening in person, with real tears took place for weeks via AIM.

The same has been true with my last two relationships. Sure, we had difficult talks in person, but texting became the avenue for details.

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