We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of in life. I internally argued with myself whether I should share this story or not, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that my confession needs to be heard.
When I was a young lad in high school, I used Facebook to break up with my girlfriend.
(Cue judging faces and angry looks).
I get it. That was stupid of me. I’m certainly not proud of it, and I kick myself when I think back to the mistakes that I’ve made like that. Sending a Facebook message to end a relationship is unacceptable and unfair. It’s selfish, ignorant and mean. But I wasn’t trying do or be any of those things. I was trying to get my ideas across and edit my thoughts so that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing. That’s how I justified it.
But what was really at play was something called communication apprehension. I was nervous to have a difficult conversation in-person and I used computer-mediated communication as a crutch to make it easier. Easier for me because I didn’t have to be there seeing her facial expressions, easier because our communication was asynchronous, and easier because I could plan out what I wanted to say.
While my story is on the more socially unacceptable side of social media, the truth is we all replace face-to-face conversations with social media every day. Whether we are delivering negative news, communicating more aggressively or any combination of the two, we interact with friends, family, professors and colleagues very differently when hiding behind a computer or mobile screen.
And hiding behind devices doesn’t always have awful implications. I added my now fiancé on Facebook just a couple days after the first time we spoke. We started talking through Facebook messages, then texting, which quickly led to hanging out together in person.
So say what you want about my online heartbreak, but also take a minute to look at the many conversation you have every day. Do you ever rely on social media to deliver undesirable news? Do you resort to computer-mediated communication more than picking up the phone and calling someone? If so, is that inherently bad?
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Tweet me @jtleeman.