Here’s one of those articles that tells a sad story about how social media caused a problem for someone, causing them to conclude that Facebook and Twitter are going to turn us all into relationship failures who will probably wind up being cared for in our final days by a robot. The author writes,
I continually worry that texting and Facebook chats and Twittering substitute for the hard work of authentic relationships, and that we’re seriously hampering our children from learning the real social skills that will provide them with life-long friendships, healthy marriages and satisfying careers.
Wow, that’s a seriously anxious extrapolation, mom! I’m sorry the editor didn’t say to the author, “How about you give this some more thought and get back to me when you’ve re-gained a bit of perspective? Perhaps this experience might give you some ideas about how parents can help their children understand the limits and possibilities of social media?” That would have been so much more interesting.
My beef with these sorts of opinion pieces is that they’re just not productive. They spew anxiety and negativity and then just leave them there. There’s no suggestions, no reflection, no open space for questions. “Is this a productive conversation?” is becoming my new mantra. If it’s not productive, it’s either just ranting or entertainment, right? Diversionary. So then my question becomes, “If I’m not learning anything and this isn’t productive, and it’s not actually entertaining, either, then why am I wasting my time with it?”
Handwringing is not productive. It’s not entertaining, either. It just happens to be a really popular form of public discourse right now, or what passes for it.
I know it’s not very interesting to read an article that says, “My family and I are using Facebook and various forms of social media and my kids are well-adjusted social beings, we enjoy each other’s company and we’re grateful for new technologies.” Dramatic stories about things going wrong make for much hotter copy. However, when we fill our heads with stories of fear and failure, we shouldn’t be surprised if that starts to infect the way we think and talk about change in all aspects of our lives.
Keep the conversation productive, that’s all I’m asking. If there’s nothing to be gained or learned, no sense of possibility being created, I at least want to be entertained or inspired. These “This Bad Thing Happened So The World Is A Dangerous Place And Our Children Are Going To Be Miserable” sort of approach to the challenges of the 21st century isn’t going to get us anywhere.
P.S. That robot sounds kind of cute.