No, this isn’t a post about the current state of politics and the presidential campaign, although that IS a sad commentary on our society. This is about a survey, reported in MediaPost’s Social Media Daily that shows we prefer to stay in touch via social media rather than with face-to-face communication.
We’ve all seen scenes like this – a group of young people sitting silently around a restaurant table – all looking down at their cellphones. In recent years, that scenario has changed so that it’s not only young people, but people of all ages – including us boomers – guilty of texting rather than talking.
The survey of some 12,000 people worldwide found that 68 percent prefer to communicate with others online rather than face-to-face. So, as MediaPost writer Erik Sass posits in his story, social media is making us anti-social.
I can understand – and I’m guilty of – the preference to stay in touch with some people online rather than in person. And that can extend to online versus contact via a phone call. Often, when I have a quick question, it’s faster to send an email. Call on the phone and you have to go through the “hi, how are you” stuff. With email, here’s what I need to know or what I want to tell you, perhaps ended with a “regards” or “hope all is well.” And that's it.
If it’s more than a quick question or if it’s something in business where there needs to be some real-time back & forth to spur creativity or consensus, face-to-face or at least ear-to-ear is best.
Social media, especially Facebook, can be great for keeping up with distant friends and relatives. But for the real inside scoop, with real emotion and real empathy, it’s hard to replace face-to-face or ear-to-ear.
Online, even ALL CAPS or cute emoticons just can’t convey real feelings or more subtle undertones. And there are risks to online communication. Think about how many times have you’ve seen a poorly-worded email or post give a wrong impression to the reader, maybe creating a problem where one hadn’t existed?
Social media has its place in our lives, for sure. But it can’t – or shouldn’t – replace direct face-to-face or ear-to-ear communications. What a boring and sterile world that would be.