Last weekend, as I was browsing the aisles of my local grocery store, I overheard a conversation between two women who had coincidentally bumped into each other. Since I was in the middle of a conundrum of whether low-sodium or organic ketchup would be best for me I happened to overhear most of their conversation. These two women gossiped as if their tongues would dry up and wither away if they didn’t keep flapping. From the fashion-disaster that a mutual friend was caught wearing to a dinner party to the nasty divorce that another friend was going through.
As I half-heartily continued to listen to their half-interesting conversation (clearly having nothing better to do with my time), I began to pick up on a conversational trend. All the information they were discussing was coming from one source: Facebook. The fashion nightmare: those were tagged pictures that appeared on a news feed. That nasty divorce: Susie Q (or whoever) went from being “Married” to “Single.” Every subject they breached had its roots in social media, and as I snapped out of my voyeuristic coma, I was left with one impression: Facebook has changed human interaction forever.
“Wait. She posted what to your wall?”
“Are you serious? He unfriended you because of that?”
“I’m going to check-us-in here, is that okay?”
Digital communication and social media have assuredly changed how we communicate. The pressure to be social has never been so high, and face-to-face interaction is no longer enough for us. Upon meeting someone socially, a Facebook “friend request” has become standard, and not abiding by this (and other digital-standards) can lead to various social ramifications. I’ve had friends become upset with me because I did not “like” certain pictures they posted or I forgot to post to their wall on their birthday. I’ve seen friendships start and stop on my news-feed, and I’ve often been out to dinner with friends where there is a moment when we are all sitting in silence, staring down at our iPhones.
No matter whether you feel this necessity for digital communication through social media is constructive or not, denying its existence will not make it go away. Face-to-face communication will be forever laced with a digital subtext, and just like those two women in the grocery store, if you are not connected through social media, you may find yourself with nothing else to say.