- Internet & the Web
Social networking dangers
Social networking or social destruction?
Maybe I’m getting old, or is it possible that I’m just plain weird? I don’t understand all this social networking hype and it certainly doesn’t make any sense to me. After all, I’ve got a landline telephone and e-mail, so anybody who wants to contact me may do so 24/7. But nowadays, I call myself lucky if the phone rings and there’s a real person on the line who actually wants to have a friendly chat. Mostly I’m listening to pre-recorded messages or a salesman from India who I don’t understand. The only person who still believes that the telephone was actually invented for talking is my 85 year old mother and I hope it will stay that way. Everybody else feels that the only way to talk is via Skype. My e-mail inbox is full of junk mail. My personal e-mails are often ignored or get the standard reply: “It was great to hear from you. Keep in touch, Merry Christmas...”.
Ever since the introduction of Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networking sites, my popularity has taken a serious downturn. All of a sudden everybody around me has at least 1000 friends whereas I only have a few oddballs who don’t own a cell phone! The reason is that many of my old buddies have joined the movement and forgotten that e-mail ever existed. They want to write messages on my Facebook wall and assume that I follow their entire life with all its little hiccups online and in real time. Theoretically I could, but then I don’t want to. So this is really my own problem, isn’t it?
4 years ago I actually signed up on Facebook. I was trying to locate a friend from many years ago and googled her name. That’s how I got onto her page, but in order to contact her I first had to open an account myself. During the long process of entering all kinds of personal data including the colour of my underpants I forgot the initial reason for doing all this and never got in touch. Not long after that, every person under the sun and their dog tried to befriend me. At first I was flattered about my sudden popularity until this jerk who I had never liked in the first place tried to link up with me. To me he had always been an axxxxhole and I certainly wasn’t interested in getting an online update of his bowel movements – if you please excuse my English. And then a 6 year old kid from Australia who was the kindergarten buddy of a distant friend’s son tried to befriend me. Looking at the world’s population and all the possibilities I got seriously scared. Right then started my dilemma: “How do I actually tell people that I do not wish to be their Facebook buddy without upsetting them”? Not being a social media expert and not having done a course in privacy settings I concluded that the easiest solution was to terminate my Facebook account. After all I didn’t want to become known worldwide as an antisocial bitch. The complicated process of online suicide took even longer than signing up. I literally had to shoot myself out of cyberspace which wasn’t easy for a non-geek like me.
I soon realized that ending my relationship with Facebook didn’t actually solve my dilemma. Some friends joined Twitter and wanted me to Tweet them. And then social networking reached Europe and resulted in all kinds of other exciting opportunities... In the end I would have had to sign up with various networks in order to keep in touch. That’s when I became the hermit who insists on old-fashioned communication.
Is social networking silently destroying our personal relationships?
If you want proof that social networking is actually destroying real relationships you just have to look around a restaurant. You will encounter various couples quietly sharing a table, totally oblivious of their partner or their surroundings. I bet you could feed them cardboard and they wouldn’t even notice. The food gets quietly guzzled with one hand, while the other is busy fondling the cell phone. They are so absorbed in befriending, sexting, bullying or instigating a revolution that they might as well be sitting on a deserted island. People have become loners and virtual relationships have taken over the world.
Another worrying fact is that whole families are falling apart. A recent article in a health magazine suggests having regular family dinners. Sounds good, but when I read the whole paragraph I nearly fainted.
At least four times a week, sit down with all family members for dinner. Make this an opportunity to talk to each other by having everyone turn off their cell phones. If your family can’t make it through a meal without checking their for messages, have everyone check their phones for one minute prior to eating, then turn them off and place them face down on the table. Set an alarm for 15 minutes. At that time, everyone can check their phones for one minute; then reset the alarm for 15 more minutes of family time.
In my cynical imagination I envisage a family sitting agitated around a table, constantly staring at the clock. I seriously doubt that this so-called family time is really quality time. I fondly remember my childhood when everybody was sitting around the table, reporting how their day had been, chatting and listening to their loved ones. Isn’t it sad that we only seem to have time for our cyber relationships these days, but not for our real ones. It’s no wonder that depression, drug abuse and suicide are on the rise.
Of course, social media also has its advantages:
- Grandparents can finally watch their grandkids grow up without having to babysit.
- The divorce rate will drop as partners ignoring each other are less likely to argue.
- Singles always know exactly who has just broken up or which potential date is a party animal or one night stand.
- Paedophiles can quietly stalk their prey without being called perverts.
- Burglars get instant notification about expensive purchases and the best time to clean out your place.
- Parents no longer have to worry about christmas and birthday presents – the latest cell phone or computer is the thing to buy.
- Long-distance relationships have become easier to maintain in the age of cybersex and Facebook affairs.
Virtual kissing machine
We have already created artificial love and hate. While cyber bullying is becoming a worldwide problem, the Japanese are currently developing a long-distance kissing machine that simulates French kissing. If you don’t believe me, check it out on YouTube.
Who knows what’s next?
Maybe it’s not the end of the Mayan Calendar that will cause our extinction? Maybe it’s social networking or the lack thereof?
The day the internet crashes, most of us will sink into a deep dark hole and vanish in cyberspace. A scary thought, but it could happen.... The Social Media Addicts Association is holding meetings in your neighbourhood. Better join them before it's too late!