The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ~George Bernard Shaw
My description of the advancement in technology and communication can be summarized in three words...a mixed blessing.
In all honesty, I would rather receive an Evite than have to pick up the phone and call in my RSVP. I love Facebook because the venue allows me to engage in short, fairly innocuous banter with people I haven't seen in years without it appearing to be awkward. And nothing makes me happier then to have someone respond to my website post (even if it is a criticism) because I LOVE to connect with people through written word.
The problem is with the good comes the bad. Because of the explosion in choices we now have the ability to communicate through, it is easy to dodge the ultimate and primary mode of communication (good ole face to face connection).
I will be the first to admit I often gravitate to using the easiest way possible to communicate, leading to what I don't want, which is MIScommunication.
Brigham text me from school the other day (which is a rant I won't start) to say he'd gotten an 89% on his World History midterm, but that class average was a low B. So naturally I immediately congratulate him ("Way to go Dawg!"). Followed by...why is your average a low B? What happened prior to this test that brought you down?
(I am not one of those moms who constantly looks at the grades online...call me negligent, but I just have never taken the time to do it). His response, "Mom, I said the CLASS AVERAGE [for the test] was 82%, I have an A in the class as of right now.
That's just a minor example.
In some respects this lack of personal back and forth is a crutch for all of us. I believe it even further perpetuates my introversion.
In addition, I am seeing quite a few problems with communication and the younger generation.
It is much easier to text or say something negative through social media than it is to be openly confrontational. People (can't just point the finger at teenagers here) have been known to do everything from cussing to bullying to breaking up with one another all with little emotional involvement.
Another problem I see is how much time social media and texting is taking away from the reality of daily life and "being present". Let's face it, for the most part our days can be pretty boring, there is truly no need to announce on Facebook or Twitter when you are going to head to the store to buy something or tell the world how your kid slept last night. But many of us are guilty of it...myself included.
God's honest personal example:
The other night my son Allen-Michael called to ask if we would house his sister team for two nights during Thanksgiving. Translated...between my mom's house and our own we will be hosting twelve young adult ministers who will be leaving their work in Texas enroute to Iowa. I announce this on Facebook....why? Because this is some truly significant life event? Or, am I secretly looking for a pat on the back? Bottom line: what is the motivation to our status updates? Believe it or not, prior to 2004 nobody knew half of what we do now about one another.
Our need to feel heard/appreciated/supported/encouraged/affirmed is exacerbated by the use of social media.
Not having to engage in difficult conversations (turning down an invitation, having an argument, breaking up with a girlfriend...) allows us to side-step face-to-face communication and can lead to many misconceptions.
Although kids are exchanging information more quickly these days (not to mention more often), not only are they gaining a false sense of reality, they are not learning or practicing some really vital life skills such as reading body language, making eye contact, and having to really own their words.
Don't get me wrong, there are great uses for technology, many I didn't even know about until I posed a question on Facebook looking for input on this topic. Like I say, the good comes with the bad. But, in thinking long term, I grow concerned with where all of this wonderful new technology will lead our kids.
Taking yet another example from our home life, both of my boys spend an exorbitant amount of time in front of the computer. They are naturally quiet, and although perfectly capable of social interaction will choose to be immersed in front of the screen in the throes of a game (that requires teamwork with other people around the world) rather than moderate their play time in order to have friends over to hang out. I know I am not the only parent who has that issue under their roof.
One last thing I hear, often from the parents I work with, is when there is mistrust they install an app on their child's phone to track them (which I am sure adult's do on occasion as well). I have never seen this turn into anything other than a cat and mouse game. Kids are generally more techy than the parents and they will absolutely find a way around whatever safety measure a parent tries to implement. What is truly needed in these circumstances is face-to-face connection and communication, honesty, and sometimes the loss of a phone. But then the parent panics because they don't know where their child is and what if they are doing something they shouldn't be (like drugs)?????
So what is the answer?!?
I could just spew the usual advice...monitor your child's use, moderation is the key to living a balanced life, supervision is essential...all things as parents we have heard a million times. Some follow all of those things, and yet the problem still exists to a certain degree...
This is a problem which will only progress, there is no going backwards here...does someone have a strategy other than what is mentioned above? If so, I'd love to hear it, we might as well use social media to exchange ideas on the ever increasing challenge of being a parent in the new millennium.