Thursday, December 19, 2019

So what did you do before social media?

It seems that I spend a lot of time sitting, reading and typing.  Most of it is reading, scanning material delivered automatically to me by Twitter, Facebook and email.  I suppose I could also include things like Instagram, and LinkedIn, and TikTok.

What did we do before social media?  Did we have a life?  Because certainly spending one’s time face to face with a screen hardly counts as a life, does it?  And we spend many, many hours in this activity.  Watch people on the bus and in restaurants, and there they are, concentrating on a little screen in their hands.  We’ve seen, and I’m sure you have, otherwise engaged couples just staring at their hands rather than themselves.

Is this communication?  Is this social?

Course, if I succeed with this essay, you may well “consume” it in the same way.  Who am I fooling: we have become dependent on our silicon screens.  We can’t now do without them.  Just try it for a day and see if you can.  There is withdrawal that you cannot overcome.  I know that if I do not get my email first thing in the morning, to see who of my correspondents is active at 1 in their morning, I feel the day has not begun properly.  And again at mid-morning, lunch time, on the bus, and last thing at night as well!

This all takes precious time.  How do the tweeters of our age find the time?  Does Trump do anything else in his day but compose his tirades?

So, what did we do before?  It’s hard to think back over 20 or 30 years.  I was already then, in 1989, using email.  It solved so many temporal problems.  I could prepare material at my schedule and communicate without interrupting your schedule.  You could reply similarly.

But it lost the face-to-face real time component of effective communication.  Typing and interpretation issues meant that misunderstandings occurred, as they have always done with written communication.  It meant that communication became a solitary, rather selfish way of communicating.

Back in the day, without email, I was constantly on the phone.  One depended on the little pink or yellow slips of paper letting us know that someone or other had called, trying to reach one.  Course this was also the day when we had secretarial support.  Rather than spending hours on the phone trying to reach someone, at least now the time can be spent otherwise.  You know, scanning your Facebook feeds, etc.  So maybe that’s progress.

I suspect that social media have taken over our time.  Whereas we may have spent time on the phone, or even in person, actually talking, and maybe doing more reading of books and newspapers, and exercising – wow, being active not permanently on our backsides, we now rely on our social media feeds for the substance of life.  Just more noise, not of our choosing.  We need stronger discipline to ensure we still have time for our quality lives.