Maybe the easiest way to make the social distinction between
being technologically connected – known as social networking – and being right
there with a person face-to-face is face time.
This is the first post in a group called “Face Time” because it is key
to true community.
There are many who say social networking is as good as face
time, some say it’s even better because we are in contact more often. I can support that in my own teaching. For
more than ten years now, when I teach undergraduate college courses, I always
have a day when I ask about personal communication. It’s usually far enough into the semester that
I have a rapport with the students and they are generally candid with me.
I ask them two questions.
First, how many have sent or received a message during this class
period. I’d say the number has been over
50% for more than the last five years. No
surprise there. Second, how many
communicated with a parent during the class period? There is always at least
one and sometimes as many as a half dozen. No doubt, cell phones alone have kept college
kids and young adults in more frequent contact with their parents. And that’s a
But while I certainly agree the technology enabling social
networking has led to more frequent communication, there are very important
things missing, still, that only face time can provide. Over several blog posts
I will share a bunch of them. Here is
Among the most important is vulnerability. I am amazed at how easy it is for me to ask or
say something through technology that I would be too afraid or embarrassed to
say in person. This concept is not new. Long before personal computers romantic
relationships were ended with “Dear John,” letters. Writing a letter was seen as the easy way out
of the relationship because you didn’t have to confront the impact of your
decision on poor John.
That’s exactly the point.
Social networking provides a buffer against personal responsibility for
our communication acts. Is that a good thing?
We are bold to comment, suggest, ask for things online and
in texts that we would never consider saying face-to-face with a person. An entire generation is being raised with a
social suit of social armor protecting them from the impact of their personal
Face time, and only face time, reminds us of the full and
direct impact – good and bad – of what we communicate with others. We need more
of those reminders if we are going to build civility. Civilization, the
civilized world, community – there is a connection here.