Evan Paszamant ’18
Everyone is posting on Facebook the general “Happy New Year” and the occasional “Wishing you ….(etc)” posts ringing in 2016. Everybody seems happy, but that’s because you cannot see what the person who’s posting looks like or know what they are feeling at that given moment. As I’m scrolling through Facebook, I see some older posts that say things like “Loving Life” with heart and smiley face emoticons, and photos of smiling people with captions stating that they are “feeling fine.” However, without seeing the poster in person or talking to them one-on-one, you cannot necessarily assume that they are actually “feeling fine.”
In an article from Forbes Magazine, studies have shown that “only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when ‘I’m fine’ doesn’t mean they’re fine at all” (1). So when society inserts this amazing technology known as social media, the 93% of nonverbal body language turns into about 97-98% because you are eliminating both the nonverbal and the verbal aspects of communication and most of the written parts of communication as well.
Now some can argue that you do write on Facebook, but when you write on Facebook, you aren’t directly communicating with others; you’re mostly expressing your opinion in that moment when the post is made. Social media platforms, like Facebook and twitter, eliminate the one-on-one conversation and instead insert a barrier of a screen between people. This type of communication is helpful for those who are uncomfortable or may be interested in having a conversation with others. Those people can express themselves by commenting and liking another post, sharing something with a friend, or even posting something themselves. The social media platform does have it pros, but at the same time, it also has its cons.
Social media has its downsides and can also act as a wall separating reality from fantasy. As stated in the previous paragraph, even though someone might say something on Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are telling the truth. Since there is a wall between you and what other people see, you can hide your real feelings and emotions easier than hiding them off the screen. You can also say things that you would otherwise be afraid of saying to someone in person or otherwise would not say. By using social media to communicate there is a sense of protection for some, in that they can display on social media certain viewpoints and ideas without hearing in person the possible backlash from others. When you have a one-on-one conversation with another person, it is easier for people to understand one another because they can see facial expressions and hear the tone of another person’s voice. These characteristics of a conversation are lost in the world of social media but are alive and well in verbal communication. Another downside to social media websites is that everything is permanent. You can like, post, comment, and share, but you cannot erase.
I know what you’re thinking, “Evan, stop acting like my mom telling me about internet safety!” To be honest though, our parents are telling us the truth. For example, you might express your personal opinion about a topic on social media and agree with your opinion at that moment. Since there is this disconnect over social media, people may not understand the emotions of the other side and with that they may be more prone to saying things wouldn’t have the guts to say in person. If people are debating on let’s say, a facebook comment thread, there’s a tendency for people to read opposing opinions just to spit back a response or counter argument. While social media is a place to communicate, it’s not necessarily the best place to listen to and understand other opinions.
It is much more productive and genuine to have a discussion or solve a conflict with someone in person than to do it on Facebook or Twitter. Personally, and I’m sure many of you can agree with me, I find it easier to talk about something than to write what you would otherwise say in person. Also when something is posted on social media, it is out there for the world to see, and even though it might be intended for a select group of people to view, others have the ability to not only see your opinion, but also comment. Social media opens up the conversation to others with whom you might not have wanted to talk. Social media has become so dominant in our society today, that most in-person conversations are usually relating to social media.
Let me just close out by asking you this:
Why Not Talk?