Now, I am not one of those people who think things were better in the past. Of course, some things were and other things weren’t. However, where social media is concerned, I feel troubled about the way it is making us communicate these days.
I am not against social media, as I use it daily to keep in touch with my students. But facebooking, tweeting and texting are not only the most predominant, but also the preferred forms of communication today. A study found that even if people have a chance for a face-to-face interaction they preferred to stay at home and communicate on their devices. Personally, I believe you will gain much more from having an in-depth, face-to-face conversation with a friend, rather than tweeting back and forth with them.
However, this is not my main concern. I believe social media has replace our ability to communicate in an honest and thoughtful way. Social skills we once learned by having a face-to-face conversation have been diminished. We seem to have lost the capacity to be thoughtful and kind. We don’t seem to be able to give our opinions without being disrespectful to one another.
Last week, I was reading a news story on-line and at the end there were over 30 comments. I started reading the comments and was totally shocked by how vile, hateful and truly mean-spirited they were. I couldn’t read them all, as they were starting to disturb my mind. These on-line comments are anonymous, so people believe they can be as mean as they want, and not have to face any consequences. The problem with that is if someone hits you the bruises will soon heal, but a cruel and unkind word can stay with you for a very long time.
When our conversations were face-to-face we had to look people in the eye, so our responses were moderated. Also, you cannot always tell what a person wants to say by their words. You need to see their body language and facial expressions as well. This is something social media is not able to do, so we are starting to lose this important communication skill.
As social media and digital communication are here to stay, we need to find a way to use them more thoughtfully. This is where mindfulness comes in handy. When we are not being mindful we may tweet or text something we regret later. However, once something is out there, it’s out there. You may delete it later, but by then many people have seen it and the damage has been done.
When we are being mindful, it means our awareness comes before our actions. So, to put it simply, we think before we act. Instead of firing off a reply or response straight away, give yourself time to think about it. Especially if what you have received was unkind or hurtful. The time it takes to do three slow, deep, calming breaths our whole perspective changes. It gives us chance to think about what we want to say, and how we want to say it. If it is unkind, hurtful, cruel and intolerant, then don’t send it.
Remember, words can be misinterpreted, especially when we cannot see the other persons face or body language. So, it is extremely important we think carefully before we post any message. Sometimes the most powerful thing to say is nothing. We don’t have to have an opinion about everything, and even if we do, we don’t need to share our opinion in a cruel and damaging way.
If we don’t become more mindful with our digital interactions, we will soon find out that social media can be as unhealthy as fast food.
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