Since the dawn of man, we have been striven to find faster and better ways to communicate with one another. From the horseback to the semaphore line to the telegraph to the telephone, we ever so swiftly made understanding one other over great distances an essential part of society. It was not until the Bulletin Board System (aka “B.B.S.”) did we truly make the world a much smaller place. The B.B.S. allowed anyone from around the world to share data and ideas freely. This was the first social network. Strangers from across the globe would post on forums and in emails communicating information and different views and opinions. This was a great thing, right?
But what happens when communication is too abundant? What happens when every individuals’ opinion can be heard at once? During the internet age, something changed. Social networking started to turn to the dark side. The exchange of knowledge turned into a competition. The quiet conversations of understanding turned into raging tempest of people yelling over one another for a bid of control. Chat rooms where meant to be a place of dialogue where anyone could come in and speak on any subject, but many who came into those rooms only wished to create havoc. From people flinging libel and slander to booters, these users only mission was to make other user’s virtual social interactions a living hell. The more malicious side of man’s nature emerged in a world that was designed on anonymity. Why not be cruel when no one knows who you are? Every evil desire a person had could be unleashed on their social peers without consequence.
We know anonymity creates the foundation for such actions to occur, but there is a much deeper problem in play. With so many users using social networking, it became the main source of communication for people. It changed the entire social dynamic of the entire western world. Billions of people became nothing more than characters on a screen. Something to be easily dismissed and discarded. It does not end with social media. Texting, another tool of social networking, also played a role in this. At first texting seemed like a good, harmless way to relay information where the end user could get to at their convenience. A quick form of email, if you will. Now it has become the standard communication for the majority.
There was a time where you used to call people and hear what they had to say that included inflections and emotions. Their emotions had impact and would speak to you. Their laugh would bring you joy. Their sadness would bring you heart ache. That was connection using technology in the 90’s. With texting, you now just have monotone conversations that lack any emotional impact. They are just letters on your phone that can be quickly deleted or ignored or dismissed without a second thought. When someone types “LOL” do you know if they are really laughing? If they are really laughing, do you truly feel the joy that is emanating from them at that moment or is it more like the distant memory of joy?
Besides the dulling of emotions, social networking also created a trend of misinformation. Anything posted to Facebook can be believed even if it is clearly false. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips but all too often people do not take the time to actually research things. Ignorance reigns supreme on such networks. People are quick to anger and slow to reason. Logic and our desire to inquire is overruled by snap judgments and calls for fire and brimstone social justice. With just a few accusations made by some random person behind a keyboard, entire lives can be destroyed. Reputations that took a person a life time to create are gone in a blink of an eye. Even if they are vindicated, often they are still looked at with side-eyed doubt. We wield social networking like a child who has found his father’s gun. We fling it around as if it were a toy without a care of the consequences of if that weapon went off.
The ironic thing is what was designed to inform and bring us together has made us as a society drift far apart. We tend to live in our echo chambers on the net and dismiss those who have differing opinions. It does not even matter if they are family or friends, we can just delete them from our lives with the click of a button. I mean, why should you care? They are just pictures on a screen? It is not like they are real people with real feelings. Do not like what they have to say? Just get rid of them. I am not saying that all social networking is bad. I will write an article about the good side of it as well. I just felt that this side of things was more important to get out to the readers because we are standing on the edge of a precipice and it does not have to be that way.
Social Networking is not all doom and gloom. The answer to these problems might be in diving deeper into social networking. Some of the latest offerings show promise in driving us out into the sunshine again to say, “Hello, world!” It starts with the simple things — do research. You should never take anything you hear on the internet at face value. A little research will not only protect you from looking silly in the eyes of your peers, but it will make you a better more well-rounded, informed person. Do not be so quick to judge. We all make mistakes. Blind anger has never solved anything. Blind anger at something that is not true is just silly. See and question things and you might find that your anger is unwarranted. That and it has benefit of making your life more stress free.
Live life in the presence of those you love and make you happy. Social networking is not just a technology thing. If the people in your network have hectic lives or live far away, call them. Sometimes just hearing a friendly loving voice can make all the difference in the world to someone having a bad day. In an age of technological wonders and high speed internet, why not do a video call on Skype, Google Hangouts or any of the many Video calling programs on the market? To see them smile from your joke and hear their laugh can change even the darkest of days into a great one. If you must text, why not use programs like Glide. It has all the convenience of texting with the personal touch of being able to see and hear the person. It is the best of both worlds. If you do not like using a bunch of different programs, even your text messaging system allows you to send short video messages. If you are camera shy you can just record a short audio message. It is the personal touches that show you care.
All the tools you need to make your social networking experiences truly wonderful are right at your fingertips. Who can argue that a fuller, more interactive, and more personable social networking experience is a bad thing? In the world of problematic social interactions, be the light that draws others to you. You can make yourself happier, social networking better, and other people’s lives happier one person at a time. It only takes on person to start a trend. Be that trend.