Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is social media making us anti-social?

LAS CRUCES — Could technology make us a nation of hermits?
Lately I’ve been wondering if social media could, ironically, be fostering a generation with no — or substantially lesser — social skills.
Hasn’t Facebook substantially diminished actual face time with our fellow human beings? Has the warm, richly nuanced sound of a human voice — in person or via phone — been replaced by tweets and texts and e-mails?
A month with a tumble of texting teenagers has me wondering if this will soon be a world of vanishing physical intimacy.
Will we be connected with the whole world but estranged from those in our own household, from our families and colleagues and even our creative collaborators?
Recalling them as chatty tots, I was stuck this summer by the sometimes almost eerie silence as grandson Alex the Great and his cousins sent flurries of texts to one another while they were just inches apart, in the living room, in the car, eating dinner at the dining room table.
Is this just a phase? Or will our ears and vocal chords atrophy while toddlers develop carpal tunnel syndrome as they furiously manipulate iPads with stubby little fingers?
Which brings me back to the whole physical intimacy thing. Already one-person households are reportedly escalating, even in tough times, when it would make more economic sense to share space.
Will there come a time when we will share spoken words — and hugs and kisses and live face time — only with the technologically illiterate?
Alex, now an old dude of 15, started designing his first website in preschool. Today’s babes often have some kind of online toy interaction almost from birth.
With all the cell phone and Skype communication, will kids with distant grandparents or parents serving in the military far away, be shocked and traumatized when they finally encounter loved ones in 3-D real time instead of familiar flat screen virtual reality forms?
I’ve wondered if our growing obsession with pets has something to do with a longing for lost physical intimacy and aural communication. Despite a few amazing phone rescue stories, dogs and cats do not generally dial 911 or call us on cell phones. They neither text, nor tweet (unless they’re birds). They woof and meow and wag or swish tails. They look us in the eyes. They cuddle and snuggle and let us know they love to take walks and hang out with us.
Think about it. How many human relationships do you have with that much daily honest communication, loving interactions, and joyful, playful, slap-on-the-back good times?
Could furry gratification sate human skin hunger, the need to shake a hand, touch a cheek, embrace a friend?
Will primal drives be enough to keep humans connected? Some say various permutations of cybersex already threaten marriage and traditional hands-on, real-time relationships.
And some see the attachment parenting movement and helicopter parents as a reaction to the growing forces that seem to separate us from intimate relationships with our children at earlier and earlier stages of life, long before kids or moms and dads are ready.
Signs and portents abound.
Thanks to social media, we can foment a revolution overnight. But will we have the social skills to develop and maintain a society?
Is the U.S. Congress a warning about what happens when information access abounds, but the skill sets to live and work together seem to be wasting away?
I watch my grandson and his cousins, close as siblings since their births, often separated now by distance but united by technology.
I find them asleep, exhausted after a rock fest, cuddled in a congenial heap, cell phones dark and silent. Profoundly bonded in dream time.
The sterile, aloof, solitary cybersociety may be coming. Soon, even. But not yet.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.


malissa456 said...

I just moved here to Las Cruces and ran across your blog. I understand your concern. It is scary, and I feel it is making us stupider as a society. I think it is a phase, hopefully, that people will soon outgrow!!
Melissa Hall

malissa456 said...

And what is really sad to me is that there are so many great blogs and other sites on the internet, but that people spend all their internet time on FB,or free time texting, ect. I was guilty of it, too, but am trying to change and get out and check out new websites and be more social face to face, too!!

wheelockric said...

Wow . . .