social network: the era of digital emotions


Sunday. 9:00 am. The alarm clock goes repeatedly. I wake up and I turn it off. I sit on the bed, reach out to the bedside table and grab the laptop.

9:15. I am already “connected”. First step: Facebook. I control notifications: as usual, most are invitations to unknown events in Madrid. I reply to chat messages: no one is urgent, but I have to answer; now. Why? Well, why not? I check the emails. Before those one in the IE mail account; then I control my personal one. I have to write a new post for the blog; it is for tomorrow. So I log onto my blog and I start to control the number of visits, I read a few articles, I visit the blogs I follow to check out the latest updates. Someone wrote to me on Facebook. I have to reply.

It is already 11:00. I look at the page of the new post I have to write: it is still blank, waiting for my ‘”inspiration”. Skype sounds. My mother from Italy is calling me.

“Honey, how are you? What are you doing? ”
“Hello Mom, I was writing a post for the blog.”

I look at the page that is still white after two hours. But in the meantime I get new notifications on Facebook, a message in Twitter, and I have just received a new WhatsApp. I have to answer at all.
“Hey, are you there?”
“Yes Mom, I am sorry. Wait a minute that I reply to this message. Just a minute. You know, it is urgent … ”
I greet my mother after almost an hour of video call, and I realize I missed most of her words because I was too busy keeping me “connected”.

“Social Networks, mixed with new devices, increase isolation or community? For the next week write a post to answer the question. ”

I leave thoughtful the community management’s class and I go back home. I think to the power of Internet, social media and all technological media that allow us to stay online 24 hours a day. I think to their influence on our lives, and on our time. I think about my personal situation abroad for two years, away from family and friends. Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp. These tools allowed me to maintain daily contact with people who have left in Italy and especially to feel them a little more close despite the miles. For me, social networks and devices mean connection and bond.

But then it happens that during a conversation on Skype with my mother, I let myself be distracted by tempting sounds from the phone and Facebook, and I lose her words. It is not more conversation: she is talking and I am passively listening, with my mind focused on the virtual world.
Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Youtube, Linkedin, Yammer, email; and yet, WhatsApp, Viber, Vine, Facebook messenger, … Maybe we’re exaggerating. Do we really need all these tools to maintain relations with the “community”? Are they so essential?
The answer seems so obvious. But raise the hand who can talk with one friend without looking at the phone to the sound of a new WhatsApp; or who can assist to an interesting lesson without taking a look at Facebook or Twitter or emails.

I don’t think that the problem is in the social network and in the new devices. They are only tools. The problem is that we are often unable to give importance and value to the right things. We let ourselves be blinded by the fashion of the moment, by unnecessary needs and vacuous materialism, transforming connecting tools in virtual cages that isolate us from the rest of the world.

I get home, yet thoughtful and unable to give a convincing answer to that question.
I call my mother with Skype.

“Mom, what do you think that social networks and the new devices help us to develop the communication and the sense of community, or they steal our time isolating and moving us away from real important things?”
“Hmm, I do not know… But I think Skype is a clever invention; otherwise how would I see you every day as if you were here with me? ”