"Technology has ruined our social skills!" I hear that line quite often. Actually, I'm sure you've heard it too. Perhaps, you even believe it. Despite being very pro-technology, I too agree to a certain extent, but I also disagree.
Yes, we've all heard the news, read the concise versions of the research reports and heard the various experts speak -- there is definitely enough and more evidence to support this contention. Technology certainly has put its finger into the social interaction pudding and mixed things up a bit. Technology and social media collectively work together to keep us connected, but in reality, we couldn't be further away physically and emotionally if we tried.
To avoid phone conversations, I would lock myself in the washroom pretending I needed to go long-haul.
In some ways, we're all just living in virtual reality. It's sort of like we're all part of an extended edition of The Sims video game. More often than not, how we appear on social media -- be it our profile pictures, statuses, lengthy notes or interactions – does not reflect how we really are in the "physical world". The irony is that we all know this, and yet a lot of us are inexplicably drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
So, you see, I agree with it all. It's got more negatives than positives. It is addictive, bad for us, it can drive us insane to interpret the true meaning of what someone said, and the list goes on. But social media can also bring certain people out of their shell. I'm a good example.
I was born during a time when technology wasn't so advanced. Yes, computers were becoming more prominent and the internet was in its nascent stages, but I had limited or no access to them until I graduated from high school. So in effect, you could say technology had a fairly limited reach and people interacted more in person or via the telephone, rather than over emails, chat or even text messages.
Despite growing up during such an era, my parents always complained that I was rather, well, unsocial. And whilst I vehemently disagreed at the time, deep down I knew it was true. I detested talking on the phone. I hated speaking to people I did not know well in person even more. I spoke to my classmates, parents and immediate cousins, of course, but my comfort zone did not extend very far. Being the social butterflies that my parents were, I found it extremely stifling at times when they'd randomly pass over the phone to me and expect me to talk. And truth be told, regardless of who it was on the other end of the phone, I hated it. It didn't matter if it was my grandparents, friends of the family or even distant relatives. I absolutely hated it.
So I hatched a plan. I'd listen to the beginning of the conversation and try to guess if it was likely that I would need to speak. And if the answer was affirmative, I would lock myself in the washroom pretending I needed to go long-haul. Of course, my parents caught on to it after a while. And soon, I had to hear them chide, "Sid, please don't run into the washroom now. Please talk and then go."
Today, I'm still very much an introvert in the garb of an extrovert. But technology has helped me bring out that extrovert.
So you see, the person that a lot of you so frequently interact with and think is a delight to talk to (yes, I am a delight to talk to. I say so!), was never actually so to begin with. Today, I'm still very much an introvert in the garb of an extrovert. But technology has helped me bring out that extrovert. The person I am when I chat to you on messenger or reply to your emails and comments -- that person is very much me. It's just a more comfortable me. It's very much a more relaxed me.
The truth is that if used smartly and within reasonable limits, social media can be a very useful tool, especially for extreme introverts. Yes, most of the things you read/speak/hear on social media need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but even with that caveat, it can be an empowering mode of communication for those of us who are not naturally outgoing. And frankly, I'm a better person because of some of the friends that I've made on social media.