My new Facebook account was the source of a heated debate that Kelly and I have been having a debate recently about social networking. In short, she she bemoans the loss of face-to-face interaction that social media engenders, and I can't entirely blame her. My time on the phone with people has definably diminished recently, and while I feel in touch with people more then before, I see much less of everyone than I used to.
Kate has many of these same reservations, but notes that "I don't think it's Twitter [or other social media] that's the problem, it's that there are some people in general that don't know how to keep a balance [between social media and face-to-face interaction]", which is probably the most accurate summation of the issue. For example, I know people who will literally not pick up the phone when you call them, preferring to SMS you after they get your voice mail to ask "what's up?" It's another layer of protection, which can, at times, be necessary in this media-saturated age, but also insulates you from the uncertainties and challenges inherit in face-to-face conversation.
However, I recognize that times change and the younger generations will be growing up their entire lives with these tools for staying in touch. I personally try and look at social media as a way to enhance my in-person interactions rather than a replacement for them (although there are some people with whom I would rather keep all of my interactions online...) FB has been essential for keeping in touch and networking with people that I wouldn't be doing so otherwise, so at least that site is worth my time. LinkedIn is another site that has proven to be extremely useful in my job searching.
But I'm just not a whole-hearted convert yet. As a parent that wants to spend a lot of time with his son, I just don't have the time to keep up with everything. Plus, I hate being tied down to my computer, nor do I have it on all of the time. I value my unplugged time and actually look forward to those times when I don't need to worry about being in touch.
I'll continue to post on this because it's a subject I find fascinating. And i'm not the only one: the Boston Globe published an article by Neil Swidey that lightly lectures one about the values of not being connected all of the time under the dramatic title of "The End of Alone"