California Freemason asked Masonic youth to weigh in on the following topic:
As technology advances, more of our social interactions take place through smartphones and computers. From Facebook to chat rooms, from Snapchat to Instagram, how can we show respect for the people we encounter digitally – and why is it important to do so?
Congratulations to Ryan Gooch of DeMolay International, Conejo Valley Chapter on providing the second runner-up winning entry:
As children, we tend not to think about other peoples’ feelings when we speak. Whatever it is that pops into our brain becomes what is spoken, sometimes at the cost of another child’s feelings. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Adults understand that an important part of growing up is learning how to appropriately translate our thoughts into our words and actions in order to become compassionate and empathetic members of society. Developing a personal “filter” allows us to engage in courteous, respectful conversations, and is a crucial part of growing up.
A problem has emerged in the past decade, however; kids are no longer forced to look a person in the eyes and observe someone their reactions to confrontations. We now live in a world of instant gratification. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow us to say whatever we want, whenever we want. Sure, this comes with a plethora of fantastic benefits, such as being able to speak to and share pictures with a loved one or family member who lives far away, or being able to instantaneously spread valuable information to millions of people. But the price of this instant gratification is great. With it, we’ve begun to lose our ability to hold civil, intellectual conversations in person, and to empathize with each other through body language and verbal cues. Where we may have once provided a hug or a reassuring hand on the shoulder to show someone we cared, we now resort to clicking the “Like” button on Facebook. We once had to look a person in the eyes when speaking with them, using their body language to judge what they were feeling and to adjust our words accordingly. Now, the primary filters we apply on the things we share with others are Instagram photo-editing favorites “Mayfair” and “Lo-Fi.” One look at any of these social media sites reveals that ignorance is commonplace and that people can be unkind, in a way they wouldn’t be in person. For a telling example, look at the comments on any YouTube video.
Social media, however, will never replace human interactions. This is a fact of life that people growing up in the next generation may have trouble realizing. We must push them to engage in more in-person interactions to hone their social skills and ability to succeed in face-to-face engagement. I challenge all of the adults out there to become role models for our youth in that respect, setting an example, such as calling someone when a text would have sufficed, or planning an event in person instead of through a group chat. Social media plays a part in this; it may be your best weapon in planning these in-person meetings or arranging for those phone calls. If we see social media more often as a tool to help arrange our in-person interactions, instead of making it our sole form of communication, we will help build a generation of more aware, civil citizens, who will grow up to and pass these habits down to generations to come.