If you haven’t heard, Facebook’s newest ad campaign compares the social networking site to common objects, showing how they both bring people together.
Let me be the first to extend my apologies. I’m sorry, Facebook, you’re not like chairs. Alas, you’re not like swimming pools either. To anticipate any future ad campaigns, you are also not like Christmas Day, dining room tables, churches, podiums, pulpits, courtrooms, or coitus – though I would love to see the ads for that last one.
You are, in truth, a glorified email account replete with pictures, maps, events, quips and a dozen other things we don’t care about, but buy into anyway. I can live without you, Facebook, but I don’t. I am, like so many, a victim of your convenience.
If you’re not in the mood for a lament, then put this paper down. This column is a lament. It is a lament for the bygone days when shaking hands was networking, letter-writing was a thing, self esteem wasn’t contingent on likes and men asked women out in person, without alcohol.
You could argue cellphones are equally culpable, and you’d be right. I typically avoid texting/messaging a conversation if a person is within a fifty-mile radius. I prefer the rawness of a face-to-face conversation. Most people would instantly agree; it is, after all, an easy proposition to agree with.
The problem is, I think some of those people would be fibbing. I’m often talking with someone who whips out their phone mid-conversation, acting like it’s neither an insult nor a distraction. Or there’s the tedious texter in class who seems to be holding fifteen “conversations” at once. There’s the ubiquitous practice of flirting with people over Facebook, email or texts, saying things you wouldn’t have the guts or guile to say in person. Then there are the people who use technology as a medium for cancellations, evasions and apologies. It’s sickening that important things such as breakups or apologies are done via text.
I know why we do it. Personal interactions can suck. Nothing bites like being turned down by your first crush. I know, because I remember it distinctly. I caught her outside Arrillaga Family Dining Commons and asked if she wanted to go for a hike and picnic, just the two of us, over the coming weekend. Fortunately for me, she declined with tact and grace. That didn’t leave me feeling any less vulnerable or emasculated.
The solace is that what I did took courage. I didn’t email it to her. I didn’t try to slip it into a text. We ate a few meals together in the dining halls, and then I was honest about my intentions. I try to adopt the same attitude with all my friends. If I care about someone, I’ll invite them for a walk, or for coffee, or any sort of intimate conversational setting.
I encourage everyone to do the same. Pick someone you want to get to know and hang out with them one-on-one. Taking the time to sit down and have a frank conversation with the people you love is something Facebook can never replicate.
Go further. I’ve been trying to leave my cell phone in my room so I’m more fully engaged with the world around me. We should choose when to check our phones, not have our phones dictate when they’re checked. Those chattering little boxes shouldn’t intrude, or be allowed to intrude.
Ultimately, the use of technology is about how much you want to be living your own life. Just because technology is available doesn’t mean it augments our existence; it may actually detract from it. Facebook and text messaging provide convenience at a great cost. We often confuse this convenience for personal interaction, to our detriment. Use these conveniences as a way to set up interactions, not as a medium for interaction.
The more these types of technologies pervade a person’s life, the worse that life becomes. You miss out on the fantastic and beautiful world around you that can both engage and captivate your senses. You lose the personal chemistry associated with real interaction. You can end up alienating people, and harming your ability to interact with the real world.
Let me end on a more positive note. I had invited two friends out to dinner, and we agreed on a mutual meeting place. When I arrived my friend told me she couldn’t go. She actually biked all the way out to tell me she couldn’t make it. She honored my invitation by showing up and explaining herself in person. I have nothing but respect for that.
Let Chris know what you think – just not via Facebook. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.