A lot is said these days about the wonderful, all-powerful and amazing things that social media can do for us all. From Facebook connections, to tweeting the latest news or finding old coworkers through LinkedIn, we always hear how beneficial these online tools are. But I believe it’s not all rosy under the digital covers.
A few months ago, my 11-year-old daughter spent a full day at a Red Cross camp for young people who want to learn basic safety when they are babysitters. She was very excited to go to this. There were three other young girls with her that day, all between 11 and 13 years old. My daughter came home from the camp that afternoon, and I asked her if she had any fun. She looked up at me and told me how each time there was a break in the program, she would try and talk with the other girls, but they would always spend those breaks texting and tweeting on their smart phones. My daughter couldn’t understand why. She felt hurt as if they didn’t want to talk with her for some unknown reason. As I looked into her eyes, I reassured her that it wasn’t her fault. That it was just because the other girls were excited to have cell phones. The truth is I wasn’t really sure what to tell her, because I was at a loss too.
Social media is a great set of communication tools, and I enjoy speaking and training on it’s benefits. However, I believe it’s dark side comes out when people use it too much or rely on it instead of relating to people in person. My daughter felt that painful sting first hand. The question is will social media help us become closer to others since we can connect via shared interests around the globe? Or will it actually drive a wedge between people who are actually physically close to each other. I don’t know the answer. I hope for now that people learn to use Facebook, Twitter and the others in moderation. And if you happen to be standing next to someone waiting for a bus or standing in line at the store, I recommend just putting down your iPhone and just say hello.