The Ex and I have an ongoing argument about social networking. He says things like, ‘Facebook has ruined the art of conversation’, or ‘People should keep in contact by phone. I mean, how can you tell if a person’s really okay if you can’t hear their voice?’
I say stuff like, ‘What about the disabled or sick who rely on sites like Twitter or Facebook for keeping in touch with people they might otherwise never see,’ or ‘I’ve made loads of friends through these sites, that I would never have ‘met’ through conventional channels’. And it gives members of my family the perfect platform for verbal abuse. Who am I deny such perfect vehicles for vitriolic communications?
On Saturday evening The Ex and I were re-hashing the same old argument. It went something like this:
The Ex: ‘So, have you heard from Eldest Son since he’s back at uni?’
Me: ‘No, but I know he’s fine ‘cos I’ve seen his comments on Facebook.’ Too late, I realised my mistake and tried desperately to suck those flammable words back inside my treacherous mouth, but the little bastards refused to be contained: like mischievous toddlers escaped from the playpen, they were free and out to cause chaos.
The Ex, spluttering: ‘What d’you mean, you’ve seen his comments on Facebook – you can’t tell anything from those; he could’ve been writing those status updates from the Bristol Royal Infirmary – with one finger because the rest of him was in a body cast!’
Me: ‘Had that been the case I’m sure he would’ve posted that on Facebook. In fact he would’ve exaggerated it to wind me up by saying a cute nurse was typing because he’d lost all his fingers.’
The Ex: ‘You’re missing the point. You can’t tell from the written word whether he’s happy or stressed or hanging from a noose in his flat!’
Me (smugly): ‘I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to reach his laptop if he were hanging from the rafters. And I’m also confident that he would phone me if there were a problem.’
The Ex: ‘Aaah, but you don’t know for sure. I’m surprised you haven’t phoned him.’
Me: ‘I’m trying not to Mom all over him.’
The Ex: ‘Even so, he should have rung you.’
Me: ‘It’s only been a week! I’m sure he’s fine, just busy catching up with mates and stuff. And we don’t normally communicate much at the beginning of term. It’s more in the last few weeks when he’s starting to run out of money. Or when I get concerned about his bowels, and have to ring and ask, “Have you eaten any vegetables this term, son? I know, I’ll send you some money – you can buy frozen peas. Peas are easy, peas are good for you. I like peas.” ‘
And peas have a social conscience.
The conversation burbled along, and as soon as I put the phone down, it rang again.
Eldest Son: ‘Hi Mum, gotta problem. Well, not so much of a problem, more of a query. Do I put the lid on the casserole dish for pasta bake, or leave it uncovered?’
Ha! I was right! But, just to be on the safe side, I slipped in a few subtle questions: ‘So…. ummm… where are you at the moment?’
Eldest Son: ‘Well, where do you think I am? I’ll give you a clue: I’m trying to put my tea in the oven, if only someone would tell me whether it needs a lid or not.’
Me: ‘Yes! Put a lid on for the first twenty minutes, then grate some cheese and leave uncovered for the cheese to brown. Now, where are you?’
Eldest Son: ‘I’M IN THE FLAT, OBVIOUSLY!’
Okay, so I can cross the hospital off the list. I know the NHS are making cut-backs, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have the patients making their own dinner. Especially ones wearing an all-over body plaster cast. Now I just need to make sure he isn’t suicidal: ‘Now, where exactly are your feet?’
Eldest Son: ‘Same place they’ve always been, mother. On the end of my legs.’
Me, sighing: ‘Yes, but where exactly are they in relation to, say – the floor, or the … umm… ceiling?’
Eldest Son: ‘Have they put you on wacky drugs or something?’
Me: ‘No. I’ve just been talking to your father.’
Eldest Son: ‘Oh, right. That explains it, then.’
So, my question to you is this: Are social networking sites the work of the Devil? Are they causing a breakdown in communications? Are we being too lazy by relying on sites like Facebook or Twitter to keep us in touch? Or, do you think that they add to the whole communication process? Do they play a valuable role in keeping us connected to both people we love and the outside world?
I would love to hear your comments. Please, add your opinion to this ongoing, never-ending debate of ours!