Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cephalopod's and Social Media Sites

It all started with my friend Katie’s innocent Facebook post…Happy Cephalopod Awareness Days!

Suddenly, my creative monkeys were off and running. Within a few seconds, they had taken me from Cephalopod’s to the impact that social media sites have had on communication. Now, if you figured out how I got from one to the other, please contact me; our brains may have been separated at birth and that both fascinates and frightens me. For the sake of everyone else, I am going to explain the path my creative monkeys took on this particular journey.

Cephalopod Awareness Days, they get more than one day?...Well, I guess that makes sense; there must be a lot of different Cephalopod’s…Squids are Cephalopod’s aren’t they?...I don’t think I can name any other types of Cephalopods…I’m going to do a Google search to learn more about Cephalopods…More random stuff to add to the files in my brain…I bet I would make a good “Phone-a-Friend” on Jeopardy, because I know a lot of random, some would say useless, information…I wonder how long it would take before Cephalopods would actually come up in a conversation with anyone other than Katie?...When is the last time I actually had a conversation on the phone with someone for longer than five minutes who wasn't a customer service representative?...Yesterday? No, the pizza guy definitely took my order in less than five minutes…Wow, I can’t remember… Hmm, communication since the boom of social media sites has really changed how we interact compared to back in the good old days…Oh sweet mother of pearl! I just took two giants leaps forward towards becoming more like my mother by using the phrase, “The good old days!”

My creative monkeys took a five minute break while I breathed slowly and deeply into a paper bag and repeated to myself, “I am not my mother, I am not my mother, I am not my mother”…

I will be the first to admit that sites such as Facebook do make it easy for me to stay in touch with friends who live in other parts of the country. While my original reason for opening a Facebook account was for it to supplement other forms of communication, I have discovered that in far too many cases, it has become the sole mode of communication. Sure, I get to watch their kids grow up through pictures they post on their Facebook pages or learn about their new job, new car, new dog and in one particular case, their new pet goat. I am still shaking my head over that one, but at least when their son says, “My pet ate my homework”, he is telling the truth. The written word is a powerful and often adequate means of communication. But there are things that the written word cannot convey. It is no substitute for the human voice. No matter how adept one is at writing, you can never really use words to describe the sound of a friend’s laugh, the pride in their voice when discussing their child’s latest accomplishment or the sigh they emit when discussing a painful incident. Human beings are by nature, social creatures and as such, seek to form relationships with other human beings. And while connecting with others via social media sites has its benefits, it pales in comparison to verbal communication.

I am a people person. Anyone who knows me will attest to that. I love talking with people; I love learning about what is important to them, how their life experiences have shaped them and influenced their opinions and I love the exchange of ideas that result from a good conversation. And yes, sometimes a good conversation centers around something as deep as existentialism, but just as often it can center around something as simple as your weekend plans. My point here is this; how we communicate in the virtual world, impacts how we communicate in the real world. The next time you are in a public place, take a look around at other people engaged in a conversation. Take note of how long it is before one or both parties reach for their cell phone so as to send a text message. Appropriately navigating social situations is a skill and like any skill, it takes practice to both learn and maintain. Social media sites often allow boundaries to become blurred and things one would probably never reveal during a real conversation suddenly become hastily penned posts for all to see.

I am not giving up my Facebook page, nor am I suggesting that anyone else should. But I am suggesting that we seek balance with regards to how we communicate. Pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t spoken to outside of Facebook in awhile. Make time in your schedule to sit down and have a face to face conversation with someone you love. We are all busy, but as the saying goes, “Be not so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Life is made richer by the connections we make with others. At the end of our lives, I doubt many people would say, “I wish I had worked more.” I suspect, many more would say, “I wish I had spent more time being with those I love.” So go be with someone you love and talk to them; if you can’t be with them face to face, pick up the phone and call them. I bet you’ll both be happy that you did.

And so, I shall end this blog by going back to where it all began; with our friends, the Cephalopod’s. For those of you who might be curious, I did learn that Cephalopod’s can be found in every ocean, that they cannot tolerate freshwater and that they are considered to be the most intelligent type of invertebrates. I also learned that were it not for the spell check feature, I would have spelled Cephalopod incorrectly. However, the most surprising fact I learned was that Cephalopod’s are social creatures. Now my creative monkeys are wondering what the world would be like if Cephalopods communicated via social media sites…I am going to call Katie and see what she thinks.

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