Lately I’ve been doing some haphazard research into the hazards of social media and the negative influence it is having on younger generations. It turns out that my generation is the last generation that actually has face-to-face social skills. No, not facetime-to-facetime social skills; I mean the kind where you are actually talking to the person in front of you. Without a screen. Okay, imagine sitting at a table with a few friends for lunch. Easy, right? Now imagine that instead of texting each other and posting images of your meal on social media sites, you simply sit together, enjoy the food, and talk. That’s face-to-face.
Although many in China are addicted to WeChat and Weibo, many expatriates are more accustomed to a steady diet of Facebook and Twitter. By blocking these platforms along with Gmail and half the Interweb, not to mention making it painfully slow to use, “The Great Firewall” is actually bringing more expatriates together in real life settings. This also forces foreigners to put down their smart phones and actually ask for help with everything from directions to culinary advice. As one imaginary expat I “interviewed” told me, “Since I cannot use Yelp, I’ve been forced to ask my neighbors for advice on where to eat.”
If this pilot project to improve foreigner face-to-face social skills takes off, it is likely only a matter of time before even more social media sites get blocked in the name of saving real-life social skills.
This new insight has given me a change of heart and I’ve all but stopped going online. Why bother searching for things on Wikipedia when I can just ask a scholarly friend or neighbor? Come to think of it, that would make a killer app.
Photo: Media Cache