Injecting humanity back into social networking, one keystroke at a time
I’m writing the draft of this piece on a typewriter. I’m enamoured by the way each keystroke caresses the A4 with romanticised authority, leaving its meaningful inked kiss on the cheek of the paper. The battered machine also represents my protest against becoming a greeting card. Against the dehumanising effect social networking has had on the way we communicate.
Back living with my parents in order to graduate within a ludicrous timeframe, I’m 1,800 kilometres from my main circle of friends and reliant on social networking to keep in touch.
Ironically, I realised this morning I’ve become robotised by the very thing I depend on to maintain my links with humanity.
The revelation came after sending a birthday message on Facebook. Upon rereading what I’d written, I realised it was as clichéd and predictable as a Hallmark card. When had my greetings become devoid of all originality?
The answer was simple: since embracing the social media phenomenon.
When I write my blog, I wear my professional hat. My words have meaning and a defined purpose: to entertain and engage. Unfortunately, my personal writing has fallen victim of the instant nature of the social networking message, more often than not constructed without deliberate thought or consciousness of its meaning.
The situation is ridiculous. Messages to my friends should be intimate and heartfelt. Thoughtful. They deserve the same level of consideration and planning that goes into even my most hastily written blog piece; why aren’t they getting it?
In my blog, the carefully crafted words cause the reader to feel something, good or bad. My words compel them to react. It doesn’t matter whether they comment, subscribe or send an email; the point is, my words have meaning and incite a reaction.
With my personal writing, the responses I receive are as disingenuous as the greetings I send. “Have a fantastic birthday!” is usually met with “Thanks, I’m having a great day.” The words are there, but they’re meaningless and bereft of feeling. It’s as if we’re communicating purely to adhere to social convention, not because we actually want to speak to one another.
We need to be cognisant of the fact our fascination with social networking has caused a regression in the way we correspond. As someone who takes great pride in their ability to communicate effectively and with feeling, the impact it has had in such a short period of time bothers me. It needs to change. The quality of our personal communication needs to return to its pre-Facebook and Twitter level. If it doesn’t, we’ll eventually become nothing more than numbed, fleshy greeting cards that fire off generic messages because we feel we have to.
In acknowledging my descent into communicative banality, I’m also attempting to redirect it. I’m now making a concerted effort to ensure thought is put into every keystroke. Each word that appears on my screen needs genuine meaning. I urge you to do likewise.
Before you send your next tweet or message, ask yourself: “What would I say if this person was in front of me?” If you answer honestly, it often won’t reflect what you’ve typed.
It’s not too late to rehumanise how we communicate.
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