Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

I resisted the social media revolution like it was spinach and I was five. For starters, it hadn't yet reached its peak (it still hasn't, I know) when I was coming down from mine. After college, I was all about being a grown-up (by day, that is). What business did I have on a social networking site? After all, my students were there. They just couldn't possibly be led to believe that I had a life.

Then, Facebook came on the scene. Every day in my classroom, I had to hear about how Susie "friended" Billy, and how Kimmy "tagged" Randy, and how Brady and Lucy were "Facebook official," and could you be-lieve what Danny "posted" on Amy's "wall" at 1:37 a.m.?

On more than one occasion, I thought I might scream. "Please, stop! I don't know what you're saying, and I don't care! Now, if we could just get back to this riveting lesson about coordinating conjunctions, I'm sure you'll see that what we're doing here is far more important than your 'tagging,' 'friending,' and 'wall-ing' business."

Finally, I swallowed my pride and joined.

At first, I regarded the Facebook suspiciously.. I'm not sure what I thought was going to happen. Criminals were going to come through my computer and get me?

When that didn't happen, I started to focus on this status nonsense. Why is she telling everyone her spaghetti is too hot? I feel really bad that his car isn't working properly, but does he have to give an update about it five times in an hour? Yes, that's a picture of your big toe, but I'm unclear as to why I should care about it. My skepticism remained. Until...

All these people started requesting to be my friend. Not the initial 10 or 15 I had found when I joined. These were people I hadn't seen or heard from in years. Great friends from high school with whom, for some reason, I had lost contact long ago. It was exhilarating! I must have made 50 friends in, like, a week. That's never happened to me before. Ever.

Pretty soon, I would catch myself checking Facebook while I was writing my Masters papers, while I was grading, while I was banking. I also noticed that I was posting a lot. Yes, I'm certain I uploaded a picture of my big toe. Before I knew it, I was spending more time on Facebook and other social media, like Twitter, than on things I should have been doing, like cleaning the house or doing the laundry.

And then it hit me. Is this healthy? I started looking around me, taking inventory of the level of addiction from which others seemed to suffer. Well, they're clearly checking Facebook multiple times a day. And him? I'm surprised he ever works, he's tweeting so much! I wasn't so bad, comparitively speaking, and that wasn't saying much.

So, as amazing as social media is, is it, ironically, making us less social?

I've already seen its impact on my students' reading and writing skills, on their ability to communicate orally, and on their attention. I've seen its impact on my own communication and attention, and I emigrated to it from a world where "friending" someone meant being nice enough to them to be invited to a sleepover.

I believe social media holds such potential for positive communication in our society. I only hope that, as it evolves, we can make it a point to use it responsibly.

This story has also been published on Yahoo! Voices.

Laura - Full-time teacher, mommy, and snark. I have humor in my handbag. And tampons.


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