Anti-Social Networking

How many spam emails do you get each day?  How many hours a week do you waste on facebook or similar applications sending messages and clearing junk?

When you are at work, how often does a person that sits within 20 paces of your desk send you an email because they are too lazy or too socially inept to speak to you in person?

Lame jokes, uninspiring video clips, bizarre accounts of people trying to kill themselves, and abnormal displays of attention seeking….

Welcome to the way in which we communicate today.  Thts rgt, wlcm 2 th way we communic8 2day.

I worry about the flow on effect of this.  Sociologists blame everything from obesity to crime on the excessive freedoms of the internet.  This may be true, but even at a very basic level, the ability to simply communicate face to face in a normal conversation is ultimately impaired by the creation of a culture that means our kids talk to a screen, and not a friend.

Virtual reality is precisely that:  Virtual.  Yesterday I witnessed a situation where a child was unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.  Not because of the lack of credibility within the setting, but because of a lack of skill and acumen in the art of communications. 

When we communicate we use more than speech.  We use tone, facial expression, body language, interactive conversation and eye contact.  When we read a message or truncate our language all we are doing is weakening our communications skills.

The Jewish response to this is a Yeshivah.  Where people argue and debate, throw shtenders, and reason over legal particularaties that sometimes have a tenuous nexus with the practical situations we face today.  But if nothing else, it is a style of learning that allows us to maintain the authentic ability to communicate. 

Jewish people also have the special gift of being able to set aside their technology for Shabbat and Yom Tov.  We can engage in real social networking by turning off our computers, phones, and other devices. 

For more reasons than one, good Jewish values support better communication.  That is not to say we do not engage in technology, but as with every other aspect of living, we have control, moderation, and limitation on how we put it to work.  The end result, and perhaps and unforseen necessity due to cultural changes of recent times, our kids have no choice but to communicate, in real time, with real ideas, and real people.