The good and the bad of society’s social media frenzy

A few years ago, a friend of mine described me as a ‘luddite’ because I wasn’t on facebook at the time, I didn’t have an iPod and I was complaining about how quickly things were changing technically speaking.

I like to think I have a pretty extensive vocabulary, but I had honestly never heard that particular term in my life. When I found out what it meant, I had to laugh because he was, unfortunately, quite accurate in selecting that term.

One dictionary defined it as ‘one who is opposed to especially technological change.’

Well, I am now on facebook and I even have an iPod. Wow. Still have a long ways to go.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all for technological advancement in theory. Who could argue with much of it? We can connect instantly with virtually anyone – no matter where they are. We have access to reams of information at any time thanks to quick and easy access to the Internet.

What would have been unimaginable just a couple of decades ago is now commonplace. But is it all for the best? I don’t think every aspect of it is. With anything, there is good and bad.

For one thing, being ‘reachable’ every moment of the day isn’t really that appealing to me personally. I like to think there are parts of the day when I don’t have to be at everyone’s beck and call – and that I don’t have to feel guilty about it. What I mean is that I have friends that get quite irritated if I happen to have my phone turned off. And it’s at those times that I think of life before cell phones – when landlines were all that really connected folks.

If someone called you and you were not home, they simply didn’t reach you. Oh well. The world kept turning. The sun kept rising and setting. Unless it was a dire emergency, neither of you were worse for wear. These days, heaven forbid if you don’t have your cell phone glued to your body.

Then there’s facebook. I’ve also had people irritated with me when I don’t know the latest ‘news’ about their lives they’ve posted on facebook. Excuse me? facebook is, I admit, pretty fascinating and even a little addictive, but it can’t be counted on to get your message to all your ‘friends’ at all times.

And finally, we have the glorious iPhone and smart phones in general. Not to mention iPads. Again, these are marvelous inventions. Who would have thought such small things could provide such a range of options for communicating and learning so much about our world.

It’s fascinating. Maybe a little too fascinating. We all see the reports on TV about how people are so enamoured of their iPhones they walk right into street lights and signposts. Fingers fly across these tiny keyboards as people text, text and text. Some people say that this trend is eroding the art of natural conversation, and part of me agrees with that.

It’s convenient to be sure, but like much else it can all be taken too far.

How many of us have been sitting at a table with someone only to have them trying to juggle a conversation with us while keeping an eye on their iPhone at the same time? Maybe I’m just hopelessly old-fashioned, but this strikes me rude.

It reminds me of a job I had years back in a bookstore. My boss told me that if I had a customer in front of me, everything else could wait. Everything. Even if the phone was ringing, we were to leave it alone. They will phone back. The most important thing is that you have a person to talk to and to serve, and that trumped all.

Seems like a long, long time ago. It’s hard to imagine how people could cope without the onslaught of tools we have today at our disposal to communicate.

Ultimately, I believe it’s about balance. Onward with the technological developments.

But let’s not forget about the priceless human touch either.