By Joe Rector

The time has come for people to re-evaluate “social media.” I’ve always considered that name for what we use to be anything but “social.” My goodness, how our lives and culture have changed so quickly makes me dizzy.

The life of which I was a part  of depended on contact with others just like today’s existence. However, we certainly did that in much different ways. We used those phones that sat on small tables in the living room or small alcoves in the hall. Mother had a phone on the wall in the kitchen. It was a faded red color over the years from hands and grease and sunlight. She put a long cord on the receiver so that she could talk while preparing supper, washing dishes, or loading the washing machine.

Many of us still remember the party lines that we had. Private lines were for those with more money than most families had in their budgets. We knew a call was for our family based on the ring—one long one. None of us boys dared to make a long-distance call because the charges were outrageous.

Letter writing was something we did frequently. Aunts and uncles who live out of town received our scribbled messages with thanks for Christmas gifts or to let them know the news around home. In fifth grade, Suzanne Fletcher entered my life and exited it just as quickly. Her family moved to Knoxville and then to Tunnel Hill Georgia. I pined for her and sent heartbroken love letters twice a week.

Most of all, people back then stayed in touch in a more personal way: they visited and talked to each other. We’d have both sides of the family to our house in June for birthdays and in December for Christmas. Grown-ups sat around the table, and younger folks moved outside or into the family room. No matter where we were, the constant drone of conversation filled those places. Laughter always up the volume a couple of notches, but it never bothered anyone.

These days, people don’t stay in touch the same way. Social media has replaced conversation. How many times have we all scrolled through Facebook to see what an image of someone’s loaded dinner plate? Do any individuals really care what another is eating?

Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms have replaced our communications methods. All too often, parents demand their children to put down their cell phones at dinner tables. Before Covid-19 hit, I stayed amazed at how folks would go out to eat and sit across from each without looking at anything other than the screens on their phones.

I know I’m old school; I know that I am not wise in the ways of the modern-day world. Still, I am alert enough to see the pain and danger and damage that “social media” is presenting and condoning.  We simply have to turn away from these platforms and return to a simpler, more honest way of communication. Humans are social creature by nature. However, social doesn’t mean burying our heads in Facebook, Twitter, or others of the same ilk, nor does it mean exchanging ideas and thoughts and beliefs via text messages. I’ve watched as two people carry on a conversation by texting each other, even though they are no more than ten feet apart.

The human voice is filled with emotion because it is connected to the heart. The true meanings of a person’s words are best determined when another hears them. No social media can compete with intimate contact filled with the expressions from the heart.

I’ve decided to cut back on the use of social media. When necessary to promote something I’ve written, I’ll send out a message on those things. My days of arguing with others on them are over. I’ll talk up a storm to folks when I can, and I will make a phone call when they are too far away. Someone might declare that I’m retreating to the past. If that means avoiding social media, that might just be right.