– Point-Counterpoint
Graphic by Christian Kessler for The Current 2012 ©
Social networking websites are useful tools for high-tech connections

Though snail mail and other traditional means of communication have their merits, many people now turn to social networking websites in order to stay connected. This shift in communication styles is not only unavoidable, but something to be celebrated.

Many popular websites like Facebook allow people to communicate with family members that live far away and keep up to date on how they’re doing. Not only do sites like these provide a fast and easy way to contact just about anyone, you can play games with someone miles away from you. In the past, physical distance between family and friends was not so easily conquered. In a world where there are a variety of unforeseeable circumstances that can potentially place families and loved ones miles and miles apart, anything that enables individuals to keep in contact with those close to them should be celebrated.

With social networking sites growing and growing throughout the years, there are ways to contact people around the world, making it easier to build relationships and make new friends. In recent years, we’ve found ways to communicate through these websites using face-to-face video interaction. For those who are socially isolated or shy, social networking sites provide a way to interact and connect with others in a stress-free, controlled environment. For those with disabilities that makes in-person interaction a strained experience, online interactions can be a life-saver.

Change isn’t something to be feared or fought against. What’s important are the ways in which we use the new technology that we create. Social networking websites bring people from all walks of life closer together, giving people who may not have otherwise met the opportunity learn more about someone different from them. Hopefully in the future, we will think of even more incredible ways to enhance communication and promote connection between one another.

Social networking websites are distractions from genuine human interactions

It is important that we, as a society, advance with the world around us by thinking of new and better ways to do things while making everyday life easier for us all. However, when it comes to things like social networking websites, advancement can be a double-edged sword.

Human interaction is all about being close to one another, interacting face-to-face. While it’s great that we can now use social networking websites to interact with almost anyone around the world, “screen to screen,” the way we connect with others online has become merely a shallow imitation of something meaningful. For those who want to use social networking sites to meet new friends and create relationships, social networking sites are a problem disguised as a solution. The bite-sized bits of interaction that social media sites like Twitter offer make it harder to form deeper connections than what can be expressed in 140 characters. Echo chambers – sites where most of the action comes from ‘liking,’ ‘reblogging,’ or commenting on something that’s already been said – serve as a distraction from coming up with an original thought and engaging in meaningful debates that just may change your original viewpoint.

Social networking sites can also leave users feeling disconnected from the real world. The weight of what’s happening on a global scale is often lost when news is watered down to the barest of headlines, designed to be quickly and easily consumed before readers scroll down, moving on to the next hot topic.

While the advancement of technology will help us in a variety of ways in the future, that technology should not become a means for individuals to distance themselves from one another. With the onslaught of affordable smart phones, it’s easier than ever to stay connected to everyone but the people physically around us.

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store or waiting for class to start, consider this challenge: log off of Facebook, put down the phone, and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Chances are, it just may change the course of your day more than ‘liking’ yet another status update ever could.

© The Current 2014