How the Internet Ruined My Social Skills

16 Sep

I remember the days when I used to make phone calls to connect to friends, family and business colleagues. Those days are long gone replaced now by the internet. My personal evolution away from using the phone to connect others started with email, then AOL chat-rooms, IM chatting, Skype, social networking sites like Friendster and Myspace, blogging, Vonage, LinkedIn, Facebook and now Twitter.

I have watched my personal relationships with most of my friends diminish over time while my business connections have grown and strengthened.

I remember being a teenager and always being on the phone with friends and we would share our daily lives with one another. We would rehash the day events repeating stories over and over on every call to every friend until it was time for bed.

Email arrived in my house but at the time I was the only person I knew who had email and so until my friends caught up with me the technology sat on the back burner. AOL and chatting in the Jewish chat rooms became the hottest thing to do. I chatted with my friends and random people in the chat rooms of AOL but never once did I meet a stranger from the online world in person.

By senior year of high school I had a close friend who was in Israel for his freshman year of college and we communicated mostly via email (the phone calls were too expensive). I printed out and saved those emails for years and years re-reading them like old love letters. I never wanted to lose them and felt that by printing them out I would never have to worry about loosing them.

My freshman year in college was spent in Israel and I branched out of my old AOL email address and old IM into the new world of MSN hotmail. I still use that email address from almost ten years ago. Email then was more widespread and we used it to connect to our parents back at home and forwarded on the chain emails that today I now mark as spam.

Instant messaging and email helped my keep in touch with my new friends from all over the world. Phone calls were sporadic at best with my international friends but they did occur. Our sporadic emails would be long and detail oriented letters sharing the intricate web of college, boyfriends, husbands and life.

By the end of college everyone had a mobile phone and we were all instantly connected to each other. Any time I felt the need to share with a loved one a thought, feeling or idea I just dialed their number and connected to them. It was a time of instant gratification and instant connection.

Fast forward a few years later when I decided to move to Israel and leave behind America I came armed with my new MySpace and Friendster accounts and my new Vonage router allowing all of my US friends to dial a NY number to reach me abroad. The MySpace and Friendster accounts were the sites my friends back at home were used and this was a way to instantly connect and share my life with them via the internet. I shared pictures, sent cute notes and posted a message on their page letting them know when I’d call them that day.

I also began a blog in 2004 as a place for me to chronicle my moving to Israel and verbalize to the whole world what I felt and still feel is important to me. The blog shows my evolution from being a wet behind the ears “olah” to a more knowledgeable and mature “olah”. I branched out from just blogging about my life here in Israel to my work life which revolves around technology. I no longer feel the need to separate my love for Israel and my love for technology. My friends were able to comment on my blog and it was rare for my blog posting to initiate a conversation between me and my readers. I was able to share and connect without doing it face to face or even over the telephone.

My new friends in Israel took up blogging as well for the same reasons. They too wanted to share with their friends back at home and their new friends here in Israel what is going on in their daily lives. I love reading their blog entries and felt that this was a fantastic medium to get to know my new friends and new contemporaries that were also going through the same transitions I was going through. I too was able to share my opinions and connect with my fellow bloggers via their comment sections.

Fast forward to today where almost every one of my friends has a Facebook account. The frenzy around Facebook opening up its doors to the non-college email user was astounding. We began messaging each other, planning events online, creating groups for different purposes. Slowly as the excitement of Facebook wore off so did my connection to my friends.

Facebook replaced the phone calls and emails. Why pick up the phone and spend money when you could share your entire life via one site? My pictures, videos, blog posting, email etc are all displayed and sent via Facebook. I check Facebook more times a day than I’d like to count. I could chose to read the messages, flick through the pictures and read my friends walls to see what is going on with their lives without ever having to directly ask them “How are you?”

The downfall is that now in order for me to really connect to my friends I need to start all over. I need to learn how to have a conversation that does not bore me with the details. I cannot scan a conversation looking for the key points. I need to remember that people communicate differently in person then they do online.

I love technology and I love my technology evolution so far. What I need to remember and what I think others need to remember is that technology is great but it does not replace face to face relationships or phone calls. In order for there not to be a backlash against technology we all need to figure out how to utilize the technology in our own ways without forgetting how important a personal connection is. These technologies are there to enhance our current and hopefully new relationships but never to replace the current methods of connecting with solely an online connection.


5 Responses to “How the Internet Ruined My Social Skills”

  1. rivki September 18, 2007 at 4:41 am #

    I just loved it. Now I understand impatience with long conversations and the lack of connection I sometimes feel with my friends.Good Job !!Mom

  2. Jeff September 20, 2007 at 5:15 pm #

    I thought this was a timely article.

  3. cornflake girl September 20, 2007 at 11:06 pm #

    Beautifully said. I know I often refrain from sending a text message because I find it rude and why isn’t the person deserving of an actual call? But then I unfortunately don’t call…

  4. Adam Daniel Mezei February 24, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    But I’d like to see how your reflections have evolved today. This post is a bit dated, no?


  1. Disabling My Facebook | Sabra At Heart - September 29, 2013

    […] How the internet ruined my social skills  […]

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