Face to face interaction with your friends is a thing of the past, especially for the younger generations. Recently I sat in on a conversation (I use this term loosely) between my younger brother and his friends.
If my memory serves me correctly I think that in the 20 minutes or so that I was sitting there, they must have said about ten words to each other. They were all glued to their cell phones, sitting on either Facebook or Mxit, talking to each other via these social networking mediums.
Social networking on mobile phones has taken off. This is confirmed by Vodacom recently launching not one, but two personal networking services, TheGRID and Meep. MTN also has a service similar to Meep called NokNok.
Meepis a form of real time communication where you can chat with either one or more ‘meeple.’ Meep can be accessed through your phone or your computer, and is available to other network users.
TheGRID is a location based social networking space. You are able to find friends on a map and then chat to them. This is done by using the networking positioning system that maps the location of your cell phone. What is great about TheGRID is that not only can you see exactly where your friends are; people can also leave little virtual notes or ‘blogs’ to share their experience at a certain location with others.
These new developments are great for the mobile world and certainly won’t do Vodacom’s finances any harm, but the radical change in social interaction is slightly worrying. With some effort I could brush off my brother and his friends’ actions, but after a little more eavesdropping I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Mark, one of the boys, was talking about his girlfriend (again I use this term loosely), whom he has actually never seen. The pair have been communicating entirely through Facebook and Mxit after being ‘hooked up’ by a mutual friend. Apparently no one else saw this as much of a problem and I was told in no uncertain terms that the great meet would definitely happen soon.
While pondering this particular blog post I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not our future generation is going to have any social skills whatsoever. You know those skills? The ones that clinch that great job for you, makes sure that you have an awesome group of friends, nail that big ass company merger that is sure to get you a raise or a promotion. Yup those ones. Essential, that is what they are.
The question is where to from here? How do you ensure that a generation will be able to speak to each other properly? There is no way that we can ever change the way that they have been brought up and with the recent surge of technological advancements it doesn’t look like much is going to be changing anytime soon. All you have to do is Google the term ‘social network’ and you immediately get sites like the ‘10 most beautiful social networks’ and lists of the most popular social networks. These are all available on your mobile phone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even on public holidays.
It is always there. If you are bored at home, sick in bed or on your lunch break, you can always contact those that are nearest and dearest using tools like Mxit. Event the Cape Town loadshedding schedule is available on Mxit. So it’s quick, convenient, easy to use and cheap. But we need to ask ourselves are all these benefits worth having a generation that can’t communicate without a cell phone in their hands?