Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 2, 2012

Social Media: Lost magic of conversation

By Allegra Babiarz
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — First name, last name, sex: easy enough. Email address, password, birthday: harmless. Registering my bare minimal information — data that could be skimmed over while flipping through the white pages — consumes five minutes of my time. I don't even understand the website I am registering for: Facebook.

My best friend and I needed a new way to talk and we were tired of our parents yelling at us for spending all day on the phone. Now, my mom was now able to jabber for hours with her mother, while my friend and I simultaneously communicate through Facebook.

Little did my friend or I know, we were taking a plunge into the defining factor of my era, which would push the limits of social privacy, acceptability and communication beyond anything anyone has seen before.

Within a week of when my friend explained what the "friend request" icon was, I had more than 50 people had become my "friends." I knew only a select few of their phone numbers, but it would not hurt to have a few more people to contact if I needed something.

Within months, more than 150 people were requesting to be a "friend." I suppose I had seen some of these people around school, and may need to talk with them sometime online. Within four years of joining, over 500 people had "friended" me. Perhaps someday I'll find a justification for accepting those requests.

Always my mentor of technology and especially Facebook, Ellis recently called me, raving about a new feature of the website we had joined so long ago: the timeline version. Defining this new template was a chronological explanation of your life, published online for every "friend" to see. The design requires users to provide information from before the Internet and Facebook were so ubiquitous. I asked Ellis why she submitted such personal information about herself, and her response was prompt: "That's the point of Facebook."

I thought the purpose of Facebook was to keep people in touch with each other. Somehow the mass usage of Facebook has transformed into an epidemic of blurred lines of social acceptability. It has become easier to message someone versus talking to or calling that person.

Apparently Ellis was right, the point of Facebook was to make communication easier; it has effectively removed the intellectual technique of conversing with a person. In face-to-face communication, body language, tone of voice, speech and many other components all play a contributing factor to successful conversation. But where have the human characteristics gone if a message is relayed from behind a computer screen?

Now with a few clicks of a mouse, and without ever saying "hello," I can scroll through the lives of my "friends." If everything important to me is posted online, what do I talk about when I see a friend face-to-face? Verbal conversation is becoming a dying art, ironically dismantled with the tool created to enhance and facilitate communication.

We should not completely submerge our lives into a public domain, but instead allow the characteristics of our personality to be revealed through face-to-face communication. Otherwise, we end up blind to the beauty of dialogue and the discoveries that accompany it.

Taking only five minutes out of my day to register for a website subsequently registered me for a future where rules of social interaction are bent, remade and rediscovered. It's time to rediscover the beauty of calling a person rather than sending a message. It's time to rediscover the "approach" of confronting a person in real time. It's time to rediscover humanity.

Allegra Babiarz is a senior at Elk Rapids High School.