Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Social skills or just social media?

I mentioned the film Network recently; actually I linked to a YouTube video of the character Howard Beale's "Mad as Hell Speech." I found a DVD recording of the film and watched over the weekend.

It's funny how the process of seeing something for the first time in 30 years has this tendency become reorganized in memory. If I remember correctly it was something of an indie cult film but the cult was loosely organized, or at least there is very little trace of those once members of it. Yes the film is still acclaimed but who's watching it? (besides time-warped bloggers)

At the time though it made a bit of media and social splash; we didn't have social media in those days except for Ma-Bell and the post office. But most conversations and more than a few board meetings were injected with at least one "mad as hell" just to illustrate the relevancy of popular culture. Sort in the way that everybody makes sure they know the score of the Super Bowl and who won before they go to work on January second.

As a critical film we might think it laughable today with it's rapid pacing and disconnected jumps and, at the time, it's unmitigated irreverence. But in a way much of what the various characters declared about the state of national sovereignty, community cohesiveness, the television generation and global economic realities has to some degree come to pass.

Most cultural surveys find that respondents put more faith in television and online reports than any other source. Most people spend the bulk of their days at a keyboard reading, emailing, Twittering, Facebooking, and texting to largely faceless masses who turn around and send the same to them.

Today anybody with access to the internet can follow the international balance of trades and deficits as cash and goods shift back and forth across international boundaries. Today a bad hour of shoe sales becomes a month or more long tragedy for some village half a world away. On-time delivery means no back-up parts if the delivery channel gets interrupted. But it isn't just about cash and goods and ideologies.

We're forgetting how to manage ourselves and our reactions and responses with people who irritate us or whom we irritate. We're becoming too accustomed to having sovereign autonomy over our environment and space and the things we think we need than is good for us or society. But we're also buying into the media blab that we should never take crap from people. There is a point of too much but we have no idea anymore what too much is because we pounce on the first hint of non-alignment.

So do yourself and your real-life social circle a big favor while the weather is nice; get out from behind your keyboard and social media, and start practicing real social skills with real flesh-and-blood people. Do it now, while we still have time.

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