April 26, 2015

Social Media & Our Disconnected World.

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Spring represents a new beginning.

Old man winter is gone and we are welcoming warmer weather.

By the skin of my teeth I finished my least favorite spring ritual: my tax return. Once again, H&R Block’s website came to the rescue and I electronically filed the tax forms in the nick of time. While Uncle Sam and Aunt Mary squeezed me for every cent, I received a text message from my sister reminding me of my nephew’s birthday. This was my big sister’s way of looking over her absent-minded little brother’s shoulder.

After the message, I realized how dependent we are upon technology. Our devices and social media allow us to communicate at the speed of light. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Skype, we can keep in touch in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. Soon, I am sure, the transporters and flying cars will arrive.

It has been an exhausting learning curve regarding the newest technology. In the past, I missed out on the popularity of Myspace before the world switched to Facebook. But now, after conducting a personal inventory, I realized that I currently belong to seven social media websites.

Often, doubts arise to tell me that this high number might not be normal; maybe if I had my parents’ God given common sense, I would have clicked “deactivate.”

However, I cannot function in today’s marketplace without all of this electronic interaction.

While Facebook and Twitter dominate the social media landscape, Instagram may threaten their supremacy. Recently, I received the news that Instagram is what young people use and Facebook is for their parents. Wikipedia has a list of social media pages, which contains 209 websites and this is not an extensive account, so there are certainly many more. Who has the time to use all of this stuff?

>>> The most valuable communication still takes place face to face and in person.
>>> The old fashioned phone call is still an invaluable way to communicate, since you actually hear someone’s voice on the other end of the line.
>>> Text messaging is next, since it is instantaneous and convenient.
>>> E-mail is still essential and just as necessary as the telephone.

Despite all of our latest technology, people feel empty and emotionally isolated. We’re more connected than ever before, but completely disconnected at the same time. Let’s face it, when you spoke to a friend or family member last, you did not hear their voice.

We are developing relationships with our smart phones. Most of our conservations take place electronically. Believe me, there is no bigger fan of e-mail, text messages and social media, than me. Yet, I do have concerns regarding the effects of technology on our interactions and relationships.

As individuals, our only genuine means of connecting with each other are through interpersonal communications. However, one in four people spends more time socializing online than in person, based on a survey conducted for the online casino Yazino.

Unfortunately, online communications eliminate the possibility of interpretation of non-verbal cues. According to the latest research, only seven percent of actual communication is based on the written word or speech and 93 percent is based on body language.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the percentage of people experiencing loneliness has increased: 40 percent of adults in two recent surveys said they were lonely, and that number is up from 20 percent in the 1980s. All of our electronic interaction is not helping. The allure of electronic communications is difficult to resist. At its best, social media becomes a cyber-community and brings people together. After a long day, I just want to crawl into my man cave, decompress mentally and click on my computer.

Despite all of this, I cannot be sure how my friends feel when I ask how they are doing, at least not unless I notice their body language or look into their eyes. In the end, I have to balance life between meeting people in person and the connectivity offered through my cyber sanctuary.


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