Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Does twitter make us lazy? (some limits of social networking)

is it just me, or does the social networking cause relational passivity?

I am speaking as a user, not an outside critic but as a user so slow that I just realized something the critic probably complain about all the time.

I know... we think that, because it brings us into connection with hundreds of people, social networking ties us together (which it does on a certain level, especially if I have something to promote). However, I have noticed on facebook, the blogs and especially through twitter, an allowance for relational passivity. No longer do we (the Imperial we?) call a friend to see how they are doing and tell them something important. Heck, we no longer even email people. Instead we update each other via twitter, which is fine for those following us, but not for deep friendship. I like knowing what Billy Joe in NYC that I read daily is up to and he should not email me (or even DM me) about his impending marriage.

However, there are some things my former roommate from college and best man in my wedding needs to tell me in person (or via phone/ email). Yes, we can use twitter and fb for personal messaging, but I don't want to tell the world in general that I have a disease or someone close to me died (neither of which have happened) before sharing it with those whom I value for their personal connections, those I am loyal to and are loyal to me. they deserve personal attention.
Along these same lines, people think that a mention of you in a posting is as good as a personal thank you, apology, phone call or email. This is relational laziness. Eventually people notice (kinda like the open letter).

However, my biggest issue as a twitter user for a while is this. It makes us passive and lazy relationally when we are in need of help, advice or support. Too many times I have seen on twitter a need/ want just laid out there with no context (how can we give context in 140 characters? I know this).

Her is how it works: I need an answer to a simple question, so I tweet and someone gives me the answer. Awesome for me.

or, I want to know how to solve a problem, so I tweet and someone give me an answer. Awesome for me.

or, I need a ride to the airport, so I tweet and someone says, "I will take you." Awesome for me.

But, all of this makes me passive and lazy. I have a need, desire or want and I do nothing relational. I put it out there and wait for you to contact me with an answer or salvation for my problem. You, as the one with the help have to do the work and I get all the benefit.

I must say, I do not like this equation, especially as a follower of Christ. It is not good for personal relationships.

Does this mean I will no longer tweet? No. But, it may mean I will pick up the phone or email someone when I need something, before I get passive and let everyone else come to me with the answer... and I may not fall into the trap of affirming and enabling such relational passivity. It may also mean that I don't just use social networking when I have a need, or when I want something done. I may try to connect with people for the purposes of getting to know them, not just using them.

But, probably not.


jnthn said...

I see what you mean but...what about the flip slide, the active person giving the answer or help? in a different context: a large group of people are hanging out. you need someone's help--anyone's help. what you will do is yell out, hey can someone help me for a second...can twitter/facebook be similar?

Michael said...

i have been told that the really succesful people are the people who know how to ask for help. so while i am also sometimes grumpy at people who might be saying things like "anyone know what curmudgeonh means?" instead of taking 10 seconds to look the word up themselves, i also wonder if maybe i should learn from them. where as for me, things i don't know isolate me, and send me off in to a corner to get data form a book, for them it draws them into deeper dependence on community. maybe that isn't a bad thing.

DJ Word said...

I think both of these are excellent points and something worth considering, especially the idea of knowing how to ask.

I would not say that asking is the issue. I just don't want people to become relationally lazy because they have new forms of communication which they can use to blanket many people instead of talking to one.

What if, instead of asking everyone for help, we ask 1 or 2 for help first, so we can increase the value of the individual relationship?

But I totally see the point.

As to the idea of yelling out into a room, I would say.. "anyone got chips" is a good thing, but when your best friends are in the room should we take them aside to tell them pertinent info or ask for help first. "I am sorry Joe," "my mom just died" or other things can be the kind of things we share individually first.

jnthn said...

I was thinking, another way to describe what can happen is the intimancy that is lost. Asking for help in person is very personal and breaks down the dividing walls in a way is at best difficult with online social networking sites.