Online social networking has presented modern day society with quite a conundrum. Is the Internet and all it has to offer isolating individuals or affording people more opportunities than ever to connect? Or perhaps the answer is both - simultaneously...
We refer to Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Gchat, etc. as social networking mediums, but when we log on to these programs, we do so alone. Are we replacing coffeehouse brainstorming sessions, power lunches, and after work drinks, with keyboard strokes made in solitude? It’s definitely a lot more convenient and less expensive to crack open a laptop than a beer with a colleague, but are we slowly demolishing the physical side of human interaction and missing out on the vital corporal interactions that make us all unique? After all, body language and nonverbal communication account for 93% of a human being’s message, vibe and persona. We are not privy to this vital, very telling piece of the puzzle when sitting behind a computer screen. This explains why miscommunications are so much more likely to happen over email than in a personal conversation.
It may be argued that you can learn more about a person by reading their Twitter or Facebook account than you can during a face to face encounter. Consistent streams of personal information and photographs are input into both, and access to the inner workings of someone’s life are not as easily compressed into an meeting in the flesh. But are we losing something by stripping away our complexities and intricacies as human beings and handing out our urls and screen names instead of extending our arm for a handshake?
Akin to sitting across the desk from a would-be employer in an interview, hoping they can garner all they need to know about you from a one page resume, but knowing this sheet of paper can’t possibly convey your abilities or do you justice -- does the Internet also cut us off at the knees, disengaging others from knowing who we truly are?
Even Oprah, the queen of daytime talk show television has started interviewing guests on her show via Skype. Who wouldn’t want to walk across the stage to shake Oprah’s hand and take a seat across from her? Instead, guests are broadcast over a big screen, and quite frankly, it feels like everyone is getting gypped. The warmth of human interaction is noticeably absent.
During the hard times of yesteryear, such as the Great Depression, people would rally together at the local pub, watering hole, or on their front stoops to commiserate and encourage each other. Today, blogs, Twitter and online games are the social anesthesia that distracts people from the stress of unemployment. While such forums are also affording millions of people a sense of community, enabling them to connect with like-minded people all over the world, one can’t help but wonder whether we need to interject more good old-fashioned hugs, handshakes and actual physical contact back into human interaction.