I have been on Facebook for about two weeks now, visiting old friends’ photo albums, ‘friending’ friends & friends of friends, reconnecting with members of our wedding party from nearly 35 years ago, etc. It got me thinking (often a dangerous thing) about the depersonalization of our everyday lives. Everywhere I go, I see people talking on their cellphones, sometimes looking like crazy people, because of the Bluetooth. People are walking down the sidewalk texting. People are engaged in airy persiflage and exchanging minutia on social networking sites. Yet, these same people do not say hello to their neighbors or people they pass on the sidewalk. They avoid letting their eyes meet with anyone in the grocery store or in the line at the bank.
All this cellphone talk! All this texting! All this networking! Yes, and all this blogging! Who are these people with so much to say? Is anybody really listening? Why don’t they say it to the person right in front of them?
The other day, we saw two teenage boys on one end of a block sitting on the ground texting two teenage girls sitting on the ground at the other end of the block. Talking to each other over a simple game of whist is a whole lot cheaper and considerably more personal. We avoid personal nowadays. Pay at the pump. Use the self check out lane. Shop online. There is no need to be sociable. We have Facebook for the illusion of a social life, where we can carefully screen who enters our circle and can instantly ‘unfriend’ anyone who challenges us, disagrees with us or makes us uncomfortable in any way. Not really an opportunity for growth there.
Yesterday, at the grocery store, I found myself studying the faces of the people I saw. I thought that there are probably any number of old friends I have lost track of right here in Souderton. Why should I seek to connect with people on the internet and not do the same in the real world? I actually spotted someone from church, whom I hadn’t seen for several months, because I took that second look. I almost didn’t recognize him with his buzzed head, and in a different context. It was good to talk with him and encourage each other in our common faith.
If we can moderate our time on social networking sites and use them to actually meet face to face with people in the real world, they could be useful. But I fear that the net effect of the increased use of these sites is more detrimental to society and sociability.