Communication revolution or evolution?

Some things are better off left unsaid. Unfortunately, in an age where social media dominates nearly every aspect of our daily lives, even the things we would be better off to not say – things relating to our personal relationships, feelings about our jobs, our boss, our own family – are shared, commented on, and “liked” by friends, friends’ friends, and people we’ll just never meet, ever.

Really, it’s unsettling, the Facebook and Twitter era. I’d like to know what it is that fascinates people to streamline their every thought, every action, every complaint via social networking sites for all to see (and in my case, not really read). I tend to be sympathetic toward someone who impulsively says something out loud when they had no intention of it (who hasn’t accidentally said something they instantly regret?), but I’m much less sensitive to the impulsive Facebook status updater of tweeter, which is why I have real concerns about my generation, “Generation Y.” True, it seems that every generation thinks theirs was the last decent generation; I’m sure the Baby Boomers remember what their parents and grandparents had to say about Rock and Roll and its influence in declining moral values, but technological advances – huge advances – are presenting people of my generation and younger with obstacles never dealt with before: The incessant need to communicate everything that’s happening right now.

Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not denouncing Facebook or Twitter. They’re both great ideas, really – a way to share pictures and information with people you would otherwise forget even existed (not to mention if I were say anything too bad about Facebook, it’s big enough to make me “have an accident” and you would never see or hear from me again). No, I’m not worried that social networking is a bad idea at all. I am, however, a bit nervous when it comes to peoples’ instinctive reaction and increasing dependency for social networking. Case in point, a teen in Edinburgh, Scotland recently spotted a man who was passed out in the street. The teen took a picture of the man and tweeted it, saying “some guy is just casually laying” in the street. Actually, the man had been hit by a car and was seriously injured; he died in the hospital several hours later. In another instance, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was giving a lecture at a California University in 2010. Moments into the seminar, he collapsed on stage and was unconscious for roughly ten seconds … and no one helped him. Instead, students pulled out their phones and updated their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

In each case, I think stupid is more to blame than social networking (and in all honesty, Twitter could have just as easily been used to save the man’s life), but the point remains the same. We’ve reached a tipping point where we – arguably – rely on social media more so than personal interaction. It’s become second nature for some to turn on the computer and habitually log on to sites like Facebook or Twitter without realizing what they’ve done until their personal pages flash on the screen (I can’t say I haven’t done it). What’s truly sad is that most who do this recognize the underlying problem and would admit they should delete their social media accounts but won’t (I can’t say I haven’t done that either. Good old fashioned American stubbornness at its best.).

I think what used to be considered a communication revolution is instead an evolution. The need to communicate is a universal condition, and social networking has definitely defined new ways to interact. But is it good that it’s slowly becoming a primary way to communicate, that people choose to interact via Facebook rather than face to face? And you know what’s truly ironic? I’m wrapping all this up with a request to follow me on Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunshawn.

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