23 October 2011
Friday night dinner with a group of friends catching up has always been fun. Gossiping and talking about what everyone has been up to and the latest news in everyone’s lives is what these dinners are traditionally known for.
At least they were. I found myself chatting among friends when suddenly at one point in the conversation I realised that nearly every person at the table was on their iPhone and Blackberry checking their Facebook page and emails.
And, I must confess, was also one of those people.
A realisation hit me then and there. The old days where friends would meet and chat aimlessly without distraction was long gone. These days, social media and what’s happening on Facebook and the like rule our world. It’s about how accessible emails and the internet is, and not by what our friends are telling us in conversation.
It’s about where you’re checking into, who with and what your “friends” are telling you through social media sites. It’s also about having the phone control you and how you function.
Think about it. How stressed out do you become if for some reason your service provider has a glitch and you can’t log on to Facebook, Twitter or your email?
Or if you forgetfully leave your mobile phone at home and remember it when your halfway to your destination?
It’s stressful, right? Social media has become so interconnected with our lives that we don’t even realise how much we depend on it until something disrupts the service and we can’t connect.
The frustration people felt, caused by such a debacle, clearly showed the attachment we have with our smart phones and the impact that such issues present in our daily lives.
In an article from The Telegraph newspaper in the UK, the issues caused by the Blackberry debacle showed how much being connected to social media means to people.
“So I have no email, Twitter or BBM on my BlackBerry; I may as well cut one of my arms off too *angry face*”. This comment was posted on Twitter by an angry Blackberry user. Have we entrusted our lifestyles to our smart phones?
I would argue yes. Whether it’s outages over the server or whether we have accidentally left our phones at home it’s clear that not having them with us has a major impact on how we operate. Gone are the days where if you weren’t near a computer or near a phone, then too bad, people would just have to wait until you finished doing what you had to do before getting back to them.
Social media sites may have connected more people to loved ones around the world and made it possible to stay in touch with one another. But they have also made us less involved in face-to-face conversations and with what’s happening at the dinner table.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Facebook and Twitter. And I’m shamelessly on these social media sites continuously throughout the day. But I also crave the need to speak to another human being without technology playing the third party in the conversation.
The reality is that social networking sites are growing ever more popular and we are forever trying to stay connected to each other via these sites. But can a website ever really replace the conversations had by old friends around a dinner table?
Just think of that the next time you pull out your phone and consider checking, messaging and updating your status.
The next time you’re out with friends, take the time to “check in” to the conversation.
Maria Schindlecker has a Master of Journalism and Communications from the University of New South Wales.