Does Social Media Encourage Anti-social Behavior?

Technology allows us to share our life experiences with people around the globe in the blink of an eye. You can choose to twitter at 140 characters at a time, detail everything in daily blogs, or combine the two into one great online experience.

It is a great way to expand your horizons until it starts interfering with your life. When social media replaces or distracts from personal interactions it is decidedly anti-social. (Yes, I have said that before and will probably say it again as long as it is an issue.)

Relationships are the essence of life. Every contact is a deposit or withdrawal. When you help someone, it is a deposit. The help can be as simple as a smile, a good article, or a referral. Anything that encourages, inspires, or contributes to someone else’s well being adds value for him or her and improves our happiness.

If you read tweets on twitter, you will see many deposits being made every minute. If someone asks for help, usually several will provide assistance. The best example is the theft of Lance Armstrong’s bicycle. When it disappeared, he put out an APB to the twiterati. Four days later, his bike was turned into the police.

If you are cynical, you might say that this happened because Lance Armstrong is, well, Lance Armstrong. But, what happens when a relatively unknown person tweets that he is considering suicide? There is a rally to his aid. People send tweets to him and each other trying to locate him and offering help.

Even with all the good in social media, there is a dark side. It is addictive. Once you get started, you have to use self-control to keep from staying online continuously. It is that call to tweet or post that creates anti-social behavior. For example:

  • While President Obama spoke to the nation last month, our representatives twittered their thoughts. For those of us who aren’t in the inner circle, it was entertaining, but not particularly enlightening. Personally, I prefer to listen to the speech and draw my own conclusions.

    Some might argue that live tweeting from the Capital was part of our new transparency. My position is that it was rude and disrespectful to our President. It doesn’t matter what your personal politics are, Obama is our President and we owe it to our country to be respectful. (BTW, that doesn’t mean that you can’t challenge him. Disagreements are great, as long as they are respectful.)

  • When a loud, cell phone conversationalist disturbed the peace on a train, another passenger logged in and live streamed the video. While the unsuspecting lawyer called clients and associates, every word was broadcast on the Internet. I can’t fathom the legal and moral implications associated with this incident. Both parties crossed the anti-social line.
  • At a recent social media conference, twitter was filled with tweets from attendees. It was nice being able to follow some of the insight into this new media. But, when the speakers started tweeting while they were on stage, it seemed bizarre. Some even had electronic conversations with attendees in their sessions. If they were tweeting at the same time they were presenting, I am amazed at their ability to multi-task. (I’m presuming that they didn’t trash their speech because there weren’t tweets announcing a major fail.) Most likely they were tweeting while their co-panelists were speaking, placing them in the same category as the tweeting representatives.

What is the next stage? Passing an old friend on the street and sending a quick tweet that you need to get together sometime? Tucking your children in at night with a {{{{hug}}}} instead of your arms? LOL’ing without actually moving your mouth?

Yes, I’m joking. (Oops, I forgot the smiley face.) I doubt that anyone would take it that far. But, when technology is chosen over personal interactions, we are losing the deposits that add up to great relationships. We are participating in anti-social behavior. It is different from the actions frowned upon in the last decade, but the effects are the same. If you don’t chat during presentations, how can it be acceptable to tweet or text?

Social media, like everything, is better in moderation. Use it wisely to start and nurture relationships. Don’t let it replace personal interactions or foster bad behavior.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Allan CB

    Interesting, but I think it’s a bit ironic how it shows the share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, etc. at the bottom of the article. LOL.

  • Debra Ellis


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