Do social media kill social skills?

17 Jan

In this day of social media and instant messaging, I think that people are forgetting how to be social.  People everywhere seem more direct, curt and intolerant – and I believe this increases both our personal and societal stress.

I have been out with more than a few colleagues who hate Facebook and Twitter, yet they are increasingly direct to the point of rudeness in their demeanor.  If a “barista” or sales clerk makes a mistake, the error is quickly noted and announced.  Is it just me or is the world becoming “too honest”?

rudeHave you noticed how much more direct people became since text messaging got popular?  People don’t talk naturally in 140 character sound-bites (the Twitter limit) – yet that seems to be the way that interactions – even in person – happen today.

I could chalk this behavior up to age (most of my friends are over 40 and proudly assert their new-found intolerance to things on which they stayed silent on in the past) – but it seems to pervade age and culture.  While Andy Rooney (of 60 Minutes fame) calls this “refreshing” in his discourse about why he likes women over 40 (because they speak their mind), it also opens the door to sometimes abrasive behavior under the guise of integrity.  When someone follows up a searing statement with “I’m just being honest” you know that they said something heavy on opinion and low on substance.

I believe that language erosion due to text and twitter shortcuts increases stress in our everyday lives. I hasten to add that the adage of “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing” is extinct.

The range of observations go from extreme (out-and-out public displays of anger) to mild (restaurant conversations that leave one dumbfounded).  Let me share with you what I’ve seen lately:

  • Public Facebook quarrels with ex-partners/spouses/former friends.  No longer are disagreements between two people, they are displayed for all to see and live on in cyberspace indefinitely.  What people cannot say in person gets blasted to the world with amazing venom and speed.
  • Road rage and text rage (the worst part is that this is often done while driving) – it is one thing if the offender is a passenger, but when they are operating a 2000 pound piece of dangerous machinery at 70+ miles an hour, the person should be cited for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) violations.
  • Public displays of anger where people yell, berate, pout, and otherwise demean another human being they choose to be out with.  Is love gone from our world between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends?
  • I hope you don’t mind but… table talk where a friend or colleague feels compelled to be “brutally honest for your own good” and spouts out why you do not have a spouse, significant other, job, money – you name it.  Whatever compels someone to say what they do in direct sound-bites and then top it off with “I just thought you should know” is beyond me.  Most often it is a pure opinion piece with little substance and illustrates the intolerance to accept you as you are. (Sidenote – when this happens, remember the song line: You are amazing – just the way you are! – BECAUSE you are.)

We need more patience, tolerance and understanding in our world today.  Good, hard-working and honest people are facing stresses beyond those ever faced since the great depression.  Work is scarce, real estate is shaky, the rich get richer, and the middle class is disappearing. Each and every one of us has (in my opinion) and obligation to practice self-love, self-respect, and respect for all living things – including those you meet during your day.  How much better would things be if we held our tongues when it does not matter, and instead focused on the strengths of others and not their weaknesses?

On that note, who have you shared a kind word with today?  Thanks for reading – have a happy, healthy, positive week!

CarolkindnessShare
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4 Responses to “Do social media kill social skills?”

  1. Bill Ravensberg Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Our technology creations are both helping us and hurting us. Or, is that helping to hurt us?

    Great blog Carol!

    We now have a law where drivers can only use cell phones hands free. So, that means no texting either. The hope is so that vehicles don’t become weapons of mass destruction.

    As I get older and more grey hair settles upon me, I am finding myself thinking back to younger days.

    I have intentionally stayed away from Facebook and Twitter because I don’t want to be spending (wasting?) even more time than I do now on technology.

    Perhaps that’s the problem! We spend so much time “being productive using social media” that we don’t have time to be social electronically or in person.

    • Carol Dekkers Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:44 am #

      Bill,

      Aside from the WMD threat, I fear that social media is “dumbing down” the poor communication skills that so many people today already have. The idea that empathy and praise produces children to be arrogant is crazy. The lack of self-esteem in adults raised with the “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality is evident everywhere – and sadly it’s too late for many to realize that “you are amazing, just the way you are”. I agree with you that the low-tech times of the past were better in many ways.

      We can never have too much kindness, too much compassion, or too much consideration for others, yet these seem to be woefully missing in pursuit of numbers not quality in social media. I wonder, how close can anyone actually be with 5000+ Facebook friends?

      Thanks for the comments Bill!

  2. lesleehare Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Thank you, Carol! I reminds me that just because we may only have 140 characters does not mean we have to blurt them out without thinking 🙂

    • Carol Dekkers Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 12:54 am #

      Leslee,

      Thank you for your comment. So true!

      Carol

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