It’s taken less than a generation for the proliferation of social media to affect the core of our interpersonal communication and socialization. Mostly, the impact is considered in practical terms. The good: convenience, access, efficiency, immediacy. The bad: distracted driving and walking; over-sharing and “too-much-information”; inappropriate, rude and other self-absorbed behavior.
What about the inevitable, yet-to-be-determined implications?
It won’t be the first time or last that we have failed to anticipate the long-range good or bad (i.e. global warming, obesity, reality TV) influence of something we’ve created.
Roman philosopher Seneca prophesied more than 2,000 years ago, “There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them.”
For now, though, it is with curiosity, sometimes intrigue and often annoyance that we witness how the evolution of written (digital) communication has influenced the way we socialize, conduct business, think … Send, Receive and Reply (All).
What we disregard or take for granted probably will amaze our descendants who will either thank or blame us for communication skills we either advanced or ravaged.
If you too wonder whether social media will make us better — or worse – communicators, here are some emerging (and conflicting) qualities with which to judge:
- Responsive or impulsive? (Read twice, send once — to avoid embarrassment or misinterpretation.)
- Thoughtful or calculating? (Conversely, spontaneity has suffered.)
- Discreet or evasive? (“I never got your message” has become a euphemism for “not interested.”)
- Articulate or pretentious? (Don’t let big words obfuscate a simple message.)
- Confident or confrontational? (Without facial expression or tone, words can easily be misinterpreted.)
- Conciliatory or patronizing? (“Liking” everything devalues everything.)
- Uncompromising or pedantic? (Healthy debate is too easily left unresolved.)
- Social or narcissistic? (TMI: No one is as interested in your life as much as you are.)
- Curious or stalker? (What constitutes creepy or, worse, invasion of privacy?)
- Eager or impatient? (Response time becomes subject to misinterpretation.)
- Selective or anti-social? (No response equals no explanation or worse, disrespect.)
- Dexterous or deformed? (Carpel tunnel syndrome is for real.)
- Articulate or plagiarists? (Now that it’s so easy to appear smart, everyone becomes suspect.)
- Remote caregiving or remote guilt and neglect? (One hug is worth a thousand words.)
- New shorthand lexicon or illiteracy? (Are we making up words to disguise laziness or illiteracy?)
- Self-confident and forthcoming or poser/imposter? (How old is that photo? Is that even you?)
Let’s hope our amazed descendants will appreciate rather than resent their inherited reliance on social media.