By Ian Sorley Cook
Today’s technologies are increasingly sophisticated, interactive, and humanized, promoting our culture’s orientation to the individual, and allowing us to become increasingly absorbed in creating the perfect version of our digital self. But the digital model of our selves is often based primarily on the sharing of only personally selected experiences, creating a finely crafted identity through the use of plagiarized quotations, suggestive photos, or fictional descriptions of an imaginary version of our selves. Developing strong social networking skills is important for us to succeed in many aspects of life; however, one would argue that these skills are best applied to the real world. By defaulting to digital versions of ourselves to socially engage others, we are missing the most important interaction of all, human contact.
Creating a digital model of ourselves gives us greater control over the self-image we project by allowing us to have more time to consider our interactions. In the real world, we often do or say things that we regret. These are all social experiences that we learn from, and we must take responsibility for our actions. On social networking sites, we have time to change or delete unflattering photos or revealing information about ourselves. Through the editing of commentary on our own lives, we eliminate the possibility of receiving negative judgment from a social group that we associate with, and reduce our chances of being able to learn through experiencing social situations. Wouldn’t our time be better spent investigating who we are as individuals in the real world, and discovering our roles within communities through face-to-face social interactions?
Social networking sites have allowed us to multi-task relationships, negating any responsibility to invest time or commitment into personal connections. Why get together with friends to show photos of your last trip, or talk about things you learned in your travels, when you can just as easily post these things on Facebook? Instead of using conventional communications such as the phone, mail, or even email, there is an increasing trend to use social networking sites, such as Facebook, to send out information about social functions. This implies and enforces that everyone who is connected to you must use this site, or face becoming a social outsider. As we increasingly rely on these technologies to perform social interactions for us, our real world communications that connect us on a much deeper level will suffer dramatically.
Knowing that over 85% of our communication is non-verbal, it is particularly frightening to realize how much of our time is spent using technology to communicate even the most basic emotions. Because the style in which we write on social networking sites often has no tonality or cadence, our messages can easily be misread. Perhaps the best way to express our emotions is through face-to-face human interaction. After all, it’s worked for thousands of years and will likely continue to be the most honest mode of communication.