Chatting with a few friends on Messenger or What’s App isn’t a harmless way to pass the time. Right?
Look at that question from another perspective:
Meeting with other friends at one of their homes for a few hours to talk isn’t a harmless way to pass the time.
Does one of those questions strike a chord with you more than the other?
That could depend on your age. It could depend on what generation you were born in. It could also depend on how you were raised and what you learned as you grew up.
As the generation of adults who grew up without the internet ages, the generation of children who grow up knowing nothing but a screen in the face ages as well.
We see it as ‘just the way things are nowadays’; that can be the case: think back to socializing on the party line – when someone was taking too long on a call, they were asked to get off and allow the neighbor to use the line; or: being online too long – having mom or dad kindly ask you to set your phone down or get off the computer. The means has changed in the way we socialize, but has the purpose and the desired result changed largely?
Why do groups of people meet in person? The reasons vary, but some examples are:
- To connect with like-minded individuals
- To work towards a common goal or purpose
- To find friendship or a companion
- To do an activity
- To celebrate an event
Online, the same is very true; why do people get online to ‘meet’ their friends?
- To connect with people who think the same as them
- To collaborate with others who desire the same outcome as they
- To find friends or validate themselves as a person by finding others who like them
- To discover an activity to do together (an online game or to find an event to attend in person)
- To find an update on a recent event that happened in someone else’s life
Whether the means is finding a group of mom’s at the library with kids the same age, or similar men in the workplace socializing with one another, the reasons behind connecting are similar. The largest difference between our connections with others is how social media and the internet are changing our youngest members of society. Today, we can find ANYTHING that we desire to find, online. As we mentioned in the article last month on ‘Online Privacy’, anything that you search or put online will be kept and stored as data on you. As you search for certain things, or visit certain websites more and more, the data being stored knows what to target you with and can anticipate your moves or needs. Our actions are nearly done for us and our minds made up on where we will navigate to as we open the browser, even if we had no intention of going that direction. The online ease of access has taken out the human factor, the human decision, will, and connectivity; it’s replaced with fleeting likes and momentous joy. Online social habits have also changed our communication tendencies with people. Here are a few examples:
- It is addictive and fun: you can find someone to talk to or commiserate or celebrate with you at any moment of any day. This is validating to either situation, you will be given someone to understand and won’t have to turn to a human to share or deal with your emotions or feelings, or talk to an adult or professional about your situation.
- Inadequate face-to-face communication: whether it be small talk or a confrontation, when talking in person you can’t always wait a couple hours or days to text or email back, it must be instantaneous and you must be able to think on your feet. We also have to make eye-contact with others, which is a skill learned through practice.
- Confidence is bolstered when there is no eye contact and you can send a message, type a post, comment on a picture, without having the person on the receiving end, see you face to face. You are no longer required to think before you speak – you just type it out and it doesn’t seem ‘real’.
- Desensitization of whom we are speaking to. Online conversing is very ‘behind the scenes’ at times and we don’t have to be honest about our identity. We may think we are speaking to someone in our demographic, whereas they are truly a predator or someone who is ‘out to get us’.
We can find anything that we want to find online, except the thing that we need the most: human connections. As much as we look for it there, it will not surface in the way God created connection to be. In the search kids are making online to find themselves and their people, they are also losing important skills that our society needs to thrive. In place of the connections they are seeking, there are also often fatal connections made. The socializing done online needs to reflect the amount of socializing that is allowed in person. If we wouldn’t spend all day at our friends house having coffee, we shouldn’t spend all day on our phones messaging or commenting. In keeping these guidelines in mind, we hope to teach the adults of the next generation how to act, dress, speak, and poise themselves in a public sector; instead of being poised behind a screen.
Now, put down your phone and go talk to a real human!