Monday, February 15, 2010

(Anti) Social Networking

Our TEEX Strategic Plan is currently being updated, and we have incorporated a new a goal that states "Support a Multi-generational Workforce." We must have a healthy mix of experience and young energy to achieve long-term success at TEEX. And we have come to realize that using social media is a very important step in attracting young talent. I accept that. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I have a blog. However, I recently heard a report that says the youth of today prefer Facebook over blogs and other social media. That is the way of the technical generation; it is constantly changing.

I like to tell a joke that states within 20 years, people will have no use for fingers, only thumbs, which will become very long and slender to accommodate rapid texting on very small interfaces. The bottom line is that social networking, whatever its evolutionary track, is here to stay. It is basically the primary way the youth of today communicate.

I am not a social scientist, but I do know something that my wife “imposed” on our children when they were growing up. Whenever she was talking with them, the first thing she would say is, "Look me in the eyes." Our children grew up being able to confidently communicate with others face to face. In social networking, there is no “looking in the eyes;” there is no sense of body language or voice tone. It is a relatively impassionate type of communication. Sure, there are plenty of testimonials and personal reflections, but who is really there to give caring feedback and even a good old-fashioned hug? I don't know about the long-term effects, but I wonder.
We all know that there are positives and negatives to anything, and social networking is no different. There are tremendous benefits in a wide variety of ways, but my hope is that we also see the importance of real, non-virtual, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, interaction. In social networking, as in all of life, it is important to have balance. From my perspective, friends should be more than a page listing on the Internet.
Gary Sera is director of the Texas Engineering Extension Service and invites your comments.


Paramedicjerryprine said...

Thank you. I sent a letter to our company president stating nearly the same ideal. I told my daughters, ages 24 and 26, that their generation was going to have carpal tunnel syndrome in their thumbs before they were 30.

Jacquie Buckley said...

Gary, you hit the nail on the head. Even Hollywood has taken notice of our lack of true connection. In James Cameron's blockbuster, "AVATAR," the indigenous people teach us a lot of things...but the way they communicate understanding is with an intense look in the eye and the phrase, "I see you." And since this movie used lots of young talent, it seems we are all interested in getting back to basics.