Why is Social Media inferior to other forms of communication?

As stated above.

There seems to be an underlying assumption floating around that things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, email, chatrooms, texting, and yes even message boards/forums are somehow inferior to other forms of communication such as telephone conversations, written letters, or face to face communication.

Many times when discussing these forms of media I will see a response of “turn off X and go outdoors” or “social media is destroying our ability to communicate properly”. But I don’t often hear an explanation of WHY the person believes such things. I generally feel as if it’s the newness or the technology itself that people protest.

It also seems as if the biggest opponents of social media are people who are naturally gifted at communication. They don’t see the need for it because face to face communication comes easy to them. These people don’t take into account the difficulties people with social phobias or autistic disorders experience with face to face communication. And then there are introverts, like myself, who find most face to face communication exhausting. I can stomach a few hours of people, but after that I’m a wreck and need days of solitude to recharge. This leaves me with quite the pickle because I do get lonely and I do need social interaction. It’s a catch 22 situation, when I’m with people I’m exhausted, when I’m alone I’m lonely.

But then comes social media and I find a middle path. Talking to people through Facebook, or forums such as this one doesn’t drain me the way face to face communication does. And it gives me time to measure my responses in a way that the telephone does not. I was so bitterly lonely in High School before I had the Internet, and now I’m content with life.

There’s also a woman I’m reminded of who had Autism so bad that she couldn’t speak. Everyone thought she was mentally handicapped. Then some bright person gave her a computer and taught her to type. Now she has a famous blog and proves to everyone how articulate and intelligent she really is. If you met her face to face, to this day, you wouldn’t be able to see any of that, but online she shines.

And then there’s the recent events my own father experienced. He joined Facebook for fun and hardly ever used it, then one day he decided to search for a long lost girlfriend… and found her. They’ve fallen in love and I’ve never seen him so happy. Soon after that he was reunited with two friends he hadn’t seen in decades. Facebook didn’t stunt his emotional growth or ruin his ability to communicate, it actually did just the opposite.

TL;DR: I would like to discuss the merits of social media and whether or not it measures up to forms of communication that have been around for longer periods of time.

I can think of a couple of ways. First, electronic communication is just a lot more limited in scope than face to face, or even the telephone.

Well, and obviously you can see for yourself that my statement above is true. The reason that face-to-face communication is better for most people, is the same reason that for you it is more difficult. It is more involving personally. However, I think you are working with some mistaken ideas if you think that everyone should be spending all their social time on the computer because some people are autistic. Clearly if you need “days of solitude” to recover from a few hours of face-to-face contact, you are not an average person. Most people overuse social media (using it more than direct communication) because they are lazy or hiding, not because they have a genuine need to do so. In the case of a genuine inability to socialize in person, the comments that people make about more average people would not apply.

The other reason that electronic communication is inferior is that it is anonymous. How do you know that anything anyone says of themselves online is true? How do you know my name is Jen? How do you know I’m Catholic, live in Virginia, or even that I’m female? If we became “friends” online, and I disappeared, how would you ever find out what happened to me? You would have no way of finding out if I died, or if instead I lost my job and just couldn’t afford having internet at home anymore, or if I was just a shadow personality created by some kooky male college professor trying to prove that he could fake being Catholic online. I mean, I can tell you that it’s not the case, but you can’t hear my voice or see my face or read my body language to see if I am lying. (Of course in this case if you could see my face the whole male/female thing would be settled, but you see my point.)

OTOH, he was using social media to make connections with people whom he already knew from many face-to-face meetings. I’d be willing to bet that he has been on the phone at least with some of them (well at least the girlfriend!) and probably met at least the girlfriend in person. There is a big difference between using electronic communications to supplement an existing friendship and using them as the medium for the entire friendship. When I get e-mails from friends that I know in person, I know how they would look and sound when they say what they have typed. To me, it’s a different matter entirely. But even in that case, you need at least periodic personal contact to renew your “vision” of the real person, or they become less and less a real person in the real world and more and more a creation inside your own head.

That is my personal opinion and not, AFAIK, the opinion of the Church. Unike the Pope (in certain carefully defined ways) I am not infallible.

–Jen

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