Is Facebook taking away our sense of decency?

A generation ago, the Manhattans offered the ultimate breakup manual in the No. 1 hit Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye.

The sorrowful baritone voice of Blue Lovett told his girl it was the saddest day in his life. He said he wanted to hold her one more time. He told her not to look back after she turned and walked away because he wanted to remember her just like this.

Today, that tune might be called Let's Just Text and Disconnect.

We've got people breaking up with texts, canceling important dates via Facebook and delivering news of their divorce on Twitter.

Are we losing our sense of decency?

Don't get me wrong. While generally being slow to warm to new technology, I embrace new communication tools.

Facebook, in particular, reconnects old friends and deepens new relationships in ways I never imagined. I even used it to query people about this subject.

But when it comes to negative news, we need to ask, "What's the best way for me to deliver this message?"

It's about common courtesy. A new rule I've adopted is deliver regrets, such as canceling a lunch date, over the telephone.

It's important for someone to hear the disappointment in my voice, and tone and sincerity can't be captured in a text.

As for relationships, it's unbelievable that someone would break it off with a text or by changing their status. Not only is it cold and uncaring, in my mind it suggests that all the time that person spent with you was pointless.

What did the Eagles say about Wasted Time?

But for every person who says the new technology gives decent people a way to escape difficult conversations, another says the technology is being blamed for something that started long ago.

One friend told me that after six months of dating, a guy just stopped calling her friend and wouldn't return her calls.

Another guy back in the day actually disconnected his phone and moved away without notice.

"People who were going to behave in that cowardly manner just have a new tool to do it," said Julia Gorzka, founder of the social networking site brandtampa.com.

"They have a new place, but they were probably going to do it anyway."

In the end, we have to find a way to enjoy the advantages of new social media without abandoning all that we gain through more conventional forms of communication.

Sure, I've joined in on some pretty good threads on Facebook, but does that beat the stimulating face-to-face conversation you can have with friends down at the pub?

Yes, you can express the importance of a friendship by going UPPERCASE and using smiley faces, but doesn't that expression mean just a little bit more in voice form?

Even snail mail — you know, actually taking pen to paper — has a place and value.

"Since my husband is in the military, the letters we are writing to each other are real treasures," said LaVerne Anderson, whose husband Jason is in the Army. "As hard as it is to be separated from him, every time I open the mailbox and see his handwriting on the outside of the envelope, it makes me smile."

Maybe everyone should sit down and write a letter to someone they love.

That's all I'm saying.

Is Facebook taking away our sense of decency? 10/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 12:18am]

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