A year ago I was prepping for the second surgery on my broken right arm. I am right handed; so, that whole adventure caused some serious thoughts on how much we take important things for granted. My family took good care of me, and I feel like I’m back to a normal lifestyle with modifications.
During that time I turned my attention to several social networking tools to pass the time. Most I had dabbled in before, but I had some extra time, one good arm, and an iPod Touch that enabled such communication. Twitter was interesting, but Facebook led to many connections. Last year was also my 25 year high school class reunion and Facebook connected me to many old classmates.
By the end of summer I was in serious rehab and my Facebook connections were in full bloom. I was back at work preparing for a new school year, and I was making the necessary adjustments with my newly configuered arm. Twitter was becoming a more powerful tool for my professional goals, and the network that was coming together proved quite valuable.
By late fall, I was wondering about the connections I had made. Many were to old friends, but I soon learned you can catch up on 25 years in a couple of posts and you are probably good for another 25 (if we last that long :-)! Facebook unnerved me with their constant agreement changes; so, I decided to leave the venue despite 1 or 2 people missing me.
The trick in all this is who would really miss you? If you have a strong network, that crosses the digital and real world, I can see some solid bonds. For me I suppose I haven’t created that powerful of a network; although, I benefit so much from this digital resource.
The key to it all is you get back what you put in. I need to add more value. Twitter is my most used tool to connect and often I get that old high school feeling that I’m on the edge of a crowd of really cool people, but they don’t know I’m there or could care less if I was. Insecurity at best on my part, but any group, organization, or gathering of humans has the high school cultural dynamic at play.
Cliques, social networks, whatever you want to call them exist, and I can’t help but wonder how this impacts kids. If the “cool” kids don’t let you in, what is the impact. What I mean in this case is that you can get in digitally providing maybe a false sense of acceptance, but in reality you are not recognized intellectually or for who you really are. I can see this social disconnect, if you will, taking place with youth and even adults.
The neighborhoods in the digital world look good on the outside. Nice yards (landing pages), well kept structures, and pleasant conversation, but there may be no substance or there are underlying deficits lurking beyond one’s social connections. It is an extension of the real world as we know it, but the digital world can be manipulated to mask that imperfect reality.
As adults we have a responsibility to help young people navigate through this added dimension to the complex world. Depite the digital world being somewhat removed or anonymous, it is ultimately real: it does exist and we must deal and live with it. We must be careful how we utilize and act in this world if we want to keep our human traits that nuture and care for one another. The digital world can dehumanize people. Caution should guide the way as we embrace these digital tools.
What it comes down to are relationships. Do we have a relationship with the technology and/or devices, or do we have relationships with people? Do we “unfriend” or “unfollow” out of convenience, or do we stick out a digital connection to let it grow, to develop a meaningful relationship, to help make each other better people?