Just Talk to Me

Just a short walk from my home is a cozy cafe that I visit daily. Many evenings I can be found sipping a great Fair Trade blend of coffee, nibbling on one of their delightful sweets, and engrossed in a big, thick book on history, culture or economics.  The whole atmosphere of the cafe wraps around me like a warm blanket on a cold Canadian autumn night.

At times I will take a break from my reading and  ‘people-watch’ while sipping coffee. People watching is distinct from ‘people-staring’. With people-watching, you seek to observe and learn and make sense of the world and community around you. In people-staring, you simply do it for self-gratification – to criticize – and feel superior. ( I must admit, at times I have been guilty of this myself!)

On many occasions while people-watching I have noticed many groups and couples enter the cafe and stake out a good seat. The cafe being on the small side, they usually do not sit very far from me, thus making people-watching almost inevitable.

Night after night I observe the following. A couple or a group will sit, place their goods on the table and instinctively bring out their interest for recruiting software for LinkedIn in social media to achieve their business goals. But there are some who immediately, they start clicking away on their device. Nary a comment is shared.

I have seen couples come in and both click away and not share a single word. One sad case, among many that I have observed, was a mother and her teen daughter that came into the cafe. The mother immediately took out her device and completely ignored her teen daughter. I thought to myself – what a wasted opportunity to connect with your child. Why not talk to her about life, share your insights about God, or simply ask her “How was your day sweetie”…and really mean it?

Though these social devices have a purpose and can be used effectively for work, rest or play, we should also practice restraint. When we choose to communicate through devices as opposed to human interaction, we lose the opportunity to create deeper meaning in our lives and others’ lives. There is only so much one can say in 140 characters or a text.

Social media inevitably constrains human interaction by creating  boundaries through technological limitations. They do not capture the full realm of human emotion, desire, and feelings as does face-to-face contact.

I am not advocating the elimination of these devices, rather I am advocating conscientious use and balance between these social media devices and human interaction. They should not be a replacement for human interaction.

These devices are becoming a surrogate for the real communication that needs to take place between individuals. How can meaning be discerned if the opportunity to question, respond, and dialogue is limited? How can we get to know each other if we only see ourselves as symbols, images, and texts?

Let social media devices become a part or an enhancement of the human communication process, not the main purpose and method of human communication and interaction. As evangelists, we must make use of social media to effectively spread the word of God, but it is through the human touch that one puts into action the gifts that God has given us, the graces he bestows upon us and the love that he wants us to share with all of humankind.

Social media has no soul, while humans do – cherish that.

 Copyright © 2012, Luciano Corbo
Luciano Corbo

Luciano Corbo

Luciano Corbo holds a Master of Arts - Integrated Studies from Athabasca University. His major interests are Culture, Work, Organizations and Leadership, within a context of Catholic Social Teaching Principles. He writes from Canada.

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