Life as a resident assistant at a Christian college would have been a lot easier if I could have texted my female resident, “I know there’s a guy in your room after visitation hours.” It would have saved me a lot of hassle from knocking on her door, coaxing a confession out of her, and then weaseling my way into her room to find him hiding in the closet behind her laundry basket. Then again, I would have never learned how to confront situations and resolve conflict well. In a culture where we have more screen time than face time, we’re more worried about cultivating the art of showcasing our dinner than the art of our interpersonal skills. As a result, our social media outlets are killing four major social skills.
Let’s face it — nobody enjoys confrontation. It’s uncomfortable, unnerving, and mostly unpleasant. But Jesus didn’t call us to run away from conflict — he called us to speak the truth in love. And instead of speaking the truth in love in person, we pull up his or her Facebook page, type a message, and hit send. We hide behind the comfort of a social media wall to protect us from the awkwardness of uncomfortable face-to-face conversations. So we miss out on an opportunity for a dialogue that allows us to approach, discuss, and resolve an interpersonal issue and grow in the skill of speaking the truth in love to our neighbour.
2. Quality time
Think back to your last dinner date with a friend. Was your phone out on the table the whole time? Was your Facebook status updated to: “Grabbing some grub with Katie at Chipotle”? Did your burrito with a side of chips and guacamole become the objects of an Instagram collage? How many times did you refresh your inbox for notifications on all the likes and comments from your Facebook status? We have become so accustomed to a world of constant stimulation, we can’t seem to stop and focus on one sole activity at a time — quality time with a friend. Instead of being content with a friend’s company, we are consumed with the need to know what’s happening with all our other friends on our News Feed. If we aren’t distracted by what’s happening outside the moment, we’re too busy distracting ourselves from the moment by trying to capture it on social media.
Today our thumbs get more exercise than our vocal chords. Like a premise for a dystopian novel, our generation has almost forgotten how to speak because we’re too busy typing. We’re guilty of texting instead of talking over coffee and Facebook chatting instead of conversing on the phone. It’s as if we’ve sacrificed the art of conversation for the art of convenience. We opt for three-hour text conversations over face-to-face ones. Texting and Facebook chatting allow us to step away and take time to think and respond, while talking in person allows us to cultivate our skill of asking, listening, and responding in the moment.
4. Written Communication
I receive a lot of e-mails for my day job that always end in “Sent from my iPhone.” I’ve had people leave off the “o” in “Hello” along with all forms of punctuation and capitalization. We could make Auto Correct the scapegoat for a multitude of grammatical sins, but we really have ourselves to blame. In a world of 140 characters or less and abbreviations for “laughing out loud,” we’ve forgotten how to write an e-mail, spell, and clearly articulate ourselves well and professionally. We become dependent on spell check to fix our errors. We e-mail without any capitalization or punctuation or signing our names at the bottom. Our written skills have become like our texting skills — short and prone to auto corrected error.
I wonder what would have happened if Jesus would have just mass texted all his teachings, Facebook posted all his parables, and started a blog with pictures of all his miracles, before and after. “Follow me by putting in your e-mail address!” I’m thinking it wouldn’t have had the same impact as his face-to-face ministry.
Flickr photo (CC) from deathandtaxesmag.com.