The Problem with Social Media

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That may be true, but a tweet is worth…well, exactly 144 characters. You can use less, but no more. Text messages are limited to 160 characters. Facebook posts only get read if they contain no more than 5 sentences. E-mails can be as long as you want them to be and web-pages can go on forever. But all of these modern mediums of communication lack something—human connection.

Though I sometimes get caught up in the frenzy on Facebook and I have a Twitter account, I am not a dedicated user like some are. It’s not that I think it’s a bad form of communication or irrelevant, I just find it inadequate to truly communicate. If I want to disseminate information (what time my party starts and driving directions), I will use modern technology. But if I want to connect with another person or a group of people in any significant way, I have to be present with them. Even Skype and FaceTime don’t suffice to make this happen. Just ask a military family whose father or mother has been deployed.

Research shows that words alone only account for up to 20% of our communication. That means when I text my wife about how good or bad my day is going, she’s only hearing up to 20% of what I’m trying to convey to her. This becomes especially problematic when you consider how often my wife or I misread each other’s text messages.

Human connection happens when we listen, interact, respond, gain understanding, empathize and care for another. These are levels of communication that can only be attained while being with someone else. We have to see and hear them, interact with them, use words, posture, facial expressions, gestures, intonation, inflection, pitch and volume to clearly communicate what is on our mind.

The problem with social media is not that it exists or that we use it, but that we substitute it for real person-to-person conversations. I can go a day or two without interacting with friends but if I travel for more than a day, my wife and kids feel something is missing, even when I tweet, text, write or call. Why? Because they feel an emotional connection to me and it can only be felt in its entirety by being with them in person.

So, the next time you think of tweeting your latest aha moment, the pressure you’re under at work, the joy of good news or just to let people know you exist, consider whether your message is better communicated via social media or in person. A tweet is worth 144 characters and a picture worth a thousand words but a human interaction is worth every minute you spend with that person.

Trent

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