I read an article recently about facebook statuses that need to come to a screeching halt. I have to confess that I chuckled at a few of them. The author made the case that leaving people hanging with vague status updates does not promote deeper friendship. Shocking statuses are equally destructive in the realm of interpersonal communication. And then the author calls for an end to what he called “the private message.” He is describing the practice of “telling one person off” in the context of a facebook status that everyone reads. It might read something like this :"I am glad you are out of my life. I hope I never see you again". And of course all of your friends are left wondering who was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a private message that is communicated very publicly.
What happened to direct communication? What happened to going and talking to someone when there is a point of disagreement? It seems like the onset of social media has propelled the disappearance of face to face communication. Instead of working out our differences with each other we resort to the indirect mode of communication that social media allows. And in the process, every single day friendships are destroyed.
Indirect communication is the devil’s playground. And social media is not the only piece of equipment of on that playground. Text messaging maintains a prominent place. It is a lot easier to put our thumbs to work and fire off a hateful text message than it is to take the initiative to have a real conversation with another human being. And it is even easier to send a text about someone else than it is to actually talk to them. Now that is indirect communication at its finest!
In recent years, I have grieved the loss of several friends. Childhood friends, longtime mentors, professional colleagues, and former employers have been among those that I have said goodbye to at funerals that are terribly painful. And it seems like I come home from such services to find my remaining friends playing on the devil’s playground of indirect communication. In a top 40 hit from the previous generation, Karen Carpenter sang: We go on hurting each other, making each other cry, tearing each other apart. Can’t we stop hurting each other? Gotta stop hurting each other…
Life is too short. Friendship is too precious to allow the ready availability of social media or text messaging to destroy in a matter of seconds what may have taken a lifetime to construct. I hope we can learn to value our relationships enough to speak directly to those with whom we have differences. Even at age 52 I am eager to join my friends on the playground, but not the devil’s playground.