Blame It on Social Networks? Maybe not…

Blame It on Social Networks? Maybe not…

Modern communication tools are often considered responsible for many shortcomings in the field of human relations in present society.

Of course, these means have limits and, if there is no balance in those who use them, they can actually become dangerous, even leading to depressive crises.

It is good, however, from time to time, to shift the attention from the objects to those who use them, to remind us that we are always responsible for what we do and not the things we possess.

As for education in the field of communication, as a mother and researcher in this field, I believe that we are not "condemned" to raise robot children, unable to take their eyes off an i-Pad, unable to think and really love, just because "this is the world they are in."

The ability to communicate authentically arises in the family

As far as Social Networks can contribute to squashing feelings, inhibiting dialogue, understanding, and analysis, it is what is sown in the hearts and minds of the youth that makes the difference.

I like to think that, today, just as yesterday and as will be tomorrow, a cautious family can make up for the socio-cultural deficits that it finds itself having to deal with.

I like to think that communicating in a fully human way with children and teenagers can also lead them to do so, regardless of the TV in the living room.

A personal communication – in the literal sense of the term – occurs when one recognizes in the other a "you" to meet and bring out. But such a relationship, an "I-you" relationship, rather than "I-it" – to quote the philosopher Martin Buber – is built much more easily if you have been treated as "you" first, always, that is since from small.

Then I would like to propose three aspects of communication which, in my opinion, should not be lacking in the family, if we want to educate children about "real," sincere, and profound relationships.

Look at the other carefully

If many kids don't know how to "look at others" it's not just because they are blinded by their phones, but also – and perhaps above all – because they weren't the first to be looked at. Indeed, it is possible that, precisely because they do not know how to relate to each other, they flee it, hiding behind a keyboard.

If children do not value the beauty of others, perhaps it is because, as the writer Alessandro D'Avenia maintains, nobody has yet seen and shown them the beauty that is within them.

Every educator, especially the parent, is called, then, to do this:to look deeply into the lives of children,to pay attention to everything, to the details, to the expression on his or her face. The educator is called to observe what the child loves or does not like, what causes him joy and pain. He is called to show him his or her own beauty.

All this implies putting the child at the center and not at the margins of one's life, knowing that whoever is treated "as a person," who feels important to someone, will learn to treat others as people, regardless of whether or not he has a cell phone in his pocket.

Proximity and openness to listening

Self-centeredness and vanity reign supreme in our society. We talk, we tell, we show ourselves off more than we care about others. The various social networks and TV channels bring us to favor these attitudes: through them it is easier to perform than to offer oneself to others. And yet, if communication tools had the power to automatically close the ears and hearts of those who use them, then we would have to say that all those who use them are dull and narcissistic, self-centered and insensitive to others. And yet, it isn’t necessarily this way.

The ability or inability to get close to the other does not come from the social networks : it has to do with something deeper. They have to do with our emotional maturity, with our inner life.

And the family has a very important role in educating on proximity – without which there is no authentically human communication.

One way to promote proximity is to undertake and encourage a willingness to listen . As educators and parents we should set an example, listening twice as much as we speak (as the Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, 4th century BC says, we have two ears and one mouth precisely for this reason).

If, in the family, you learn to listen and take an interest in others, Instagram or Facebook will certainly not make you lose these precious qualities...

Educate yourself and educate others about empathy

How many times on social media do we read frivolous or scornful comments, full of clichés and hatred ? How often do we notice insensitivity and superficiality in regarding the lives of others?

"Social networks have made us cynical and ruthless," some say.

Certainly, it does not help to spend hours and hours in front of a screen talking to or about people perceived to be so distant as to become almost unreal, but the deeper reason why "you shoot at point blank" others, their actions, their problems is that a healthy education in empathy has been lacking.

To return to the concept of Buber, the other is not something, but rather a "you," with its own story, wounds, sufferings, and difficulties. To educate oneself and educate about empathy means to ask oneself about the why behind the actions of the other , try to put oneself in his shoes, ask oneself what he feels and how to help him, instead of condemning.

Teaching a child to ask himself what is on his mind and in the heart of another is a great start.

Empathy must be experienced first of all in the family: it is not irrelevant whether a child's tears are dried or not, if asked how he is, how he gets along with his companions, if something makes him suffer, why he made a certain gesture.

A child or young person who has experienced empathy for himself will be more inclined to empathize with others.

The purpose of this article is not to commend the new communication tools, nor, even less, to exonerate them from all the troubles attributed to them. We know that they can actually be problematic and risky, especially for “unripe” young people, who are subject to rebellion and change.

What we wanted was just to focus on the importance of an education that starts "from within" and that aims to develop the ability to communicate in a fully human way, regardless of the tools used.

Social networks can complicate the work of the educator, but they must not become an alibi or the scapegoat, in order to not admit educational and affective deficiencies that do not depend on them.