Antiquated, Not Twitterpated
I believe that cyber relationships are real. They can be substantive and satisfying; sometimes even more so than those with people in our real lives. I would never scoff at someone who described a cyber acquaintance as a "friend".
I myself have a small circle of cyber friends who mean the world to me, and whom have been more steadfast and supportive than many of the people I meet face to face. That's not to say that internet friendships are not subject to the same perils and pitfalls that real life friendships are. They can be equally satisfying and equally frustrating because they are equally meaningful.
So I'm certainly not knocking anyone who reaches out to people on the internet, whether they are looking for friendship, romance, or just some intelligent conversation with people who share views, values and interests.
It's not sad. It's not empty. It's not superficial.
But that is rapidly changing, thanks to "social networking" sites, which are reducing our interactions with one another to sound bytes and status updates.
It seems the site most under fire these days is Twitter, because it's the latest, greatest social networking tool, and because it has taken what Facebook started and reduced it to something even less meaningful and less substantive; 140 characters of sheer inanity.
For nobody can relate to another person in a way that is other than inane when one is confined to 140 characters.
I've expressed before how I feel about these sites, and I've sort of felt like the cheese standing alone. Everybody who is anybody Twitters! Or is it Tweets? Even the parlance escapes me. Everybody who is anybody has 4 squillion followers!
But it seems that at least one person agrees with me. Chani expresses all the things I feel about these "social networking" tools with eloquence.
She argues that friendships take time and effort. They require risk. They cannot be fostered through quips, quotes, sound bytes and snippets. And she's absolutely right. But people, particularly Americans, in our fast food society, are all about quick and easy. We are all about instant gratification.
So as long as there is something out there that can give some semblance of a connection with other people; these pseduo friendships, without the expenditure of any time or effort or risk...then places like Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other copycats come along, (because Americans are also all about jumping on a bandwagon, particularly if it is profitable) will continue to gain popularity.
And other forms of communication; real, meaningful communication, will languish and become all but obsolete.
A lot of things that once seemed implausible, impossible and fantastic have come to pass. Some of them are good and useful and benign. Some of them are not.
Does it seem so far fetched then, to imagine that someday, face to face interaction, conversation and socialization could become obsolete. That all of our relationships will be conducted in the digital realm?
It seems like science fiction, doesn't it? But think about it. Are there days when you don't actually talk to someone using your voice? I have my husband and children of course, but there are days that I speak to no one else, personally. Strangely, I rarely experience a sense of isolation, because on those days, although I don't speak to anyone, I communicate with a number of individuals through various mediums; Email, text, Facebook, blog comments...
Our world is growing ever smaller thanks to technological advances in communication and digital media. Our computers are a window to the world.
But sometimes, it might be a good idea to shut the window, open a door, and step out.
And that's why I dislike all these so-called "social" media sites. They are not social at all. They are socially isolating, self-limiting, and insular. They facilitate a sense of community and perpetrate the illusion of inclusion, while drastically reducing the sphere and depth of our interaction.
We will become less and less likely to open our doors and speak to our fellows one on one, when it is so easy to simply throw up the window sash and shout to anyone who might be listening.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a Facebook account. So I suppose, in some ways, I am being a huge hypocrite. But you know what? I have like 30 friends on my list. With a few exceptions, they are all, actually, my friends. Most of them, I even know in real life.
I use it as an extension of, not a replacement for, real friendships. I use it a lot to say..."Hey, let's get together for coffee next week."
Open your doors people. Step out. Look each other in the eye. Smile. Speak.
It might be an aniquated idea, but I don't think it's obsolete just yet.