My elementary school report cards were always filled with As and positive remarks. However, every single one of them also sported comments by the teachers such as “talks too much in class.” I know – this comes as a huge shock to many of you. I love people, and I like to talk. Embarking on my online social journey back in 1992 opened up so many new conversation avenues that I quickly became immersed in the discussions I was having. Everywhere I turned, new forums and communication avenues opened up before my eyes. I was in Heaven! There are millions of people out there to talk to and connect with! Eventually, though, I turned out just like you: I had branched out a little too much and could no longer keep up.
As a Community Manager, I pride myself on always being available to talk to others. I spend my working hours connecting people and sparking dialogue between them. However, a good friend pointed out to me earlier this morning that I have gotten into a rut of sorts on a personal level… I don’t have any conversations of my own. Oh sure, you’ll find me all over the place on Twitter. But I realized that I’m using that as a crutch and avoiding any real methods of talking to others.
I have long used mIRC to stay connected to IRC. Yes, I know it’s old school. However, you’d be surprised at how many fantastic chat rooms – and people – there are to be found on good networks. Chris Pirillo’s channel, for instance, sees no less than 200 people connected at all times. Part of my job is to manage that particular corner of the network, and I make sure to pop in and say hello to everyone as often as I can. Sadly, though, mIRC stays minimized and hidden in my tray 99% of the time I am at the computer.
Instant messaging clients are another way I used to spend time really conversing with others. For the past few months, though, I am always logged into Pidgin in “invisible” mode. I scoff that I don’t have the time to have people sending me messages throughout the day. It makes me sad to realize that I think I am so busy I no longer have the time to devote to my friends and family.
Raise your hand if you’re seeing yourself here. I am guilty as charged: I am using Twitter as a crutch, pretending that I am still having REAL conversations. There are many who will argue and claim that it is possible to do on Twitter. But I have the feeling that the majority of you are much like me: TweetDeck sits in my tray taunting me while messages float across the upper right hand corner of my screen. I can pause in my work, click the icon, type out ONE SENTENCE and then completely ignore it again. I don’t have to invest any real time – or myself – in order to have a “conversation.” I’m coming to understand how sad this really is.
I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I notice the same trends there. People log in, post a message on their Wall… and maybe say hello to a small handful of people on their own pages. Then they either log out or start playing the hottest new game on the site (apparently usually Farmville or Cityville, according to the requests I see all day long).
People like me sit behind a computer screen for more than eight hours a day working. When we’re not at the computer, our noses are often buried in our phones. After all… we have to stay connected, right?
The question is, though… are we TRULY connected? Is social media killing conversation in your world?