Words travel faster than wind these days.

Thanks to social media, ideas and opinions can fly from the keyboard and into cyberspace before we barely blink, sometimes even before we give those words a second thought. In fact, communication today has gotten so efficient that perhaps the only invention which could do better would be one which affords the ability to read minds.

Yet all too often, even with the great means of connecting the internet provides, we, as human beings, still seem to struggle when it comes to really listening to one another and being able to get along, case in point the current political divide in the U.S. Given this, one wonders if even mental telepathy would make much difference in the matter.

For, having the ability to be heard does not always mean that everyone is really listening.

Social media, like society today, moves so quickly that, at times, it seems nearly impossible to keep up. Thankfully, the limits these various sites impose, in regards to size of comments and posts, helps to keep the conversation moving — a good thing, considering how bogged down things would get if everyone just rambled on and on. Still, this need for brevity threatens to cast an illusion that important matters can, and perhaps even should be, summed up and moved on from quickly. This is evident in the way crucial issues such as the Syrian war and refugee crisis are blended in randomly with everything from celebrity news, such as Kanye West’s recent breakdown, to various posts highlighting things like your neighbor’s new puppy.

As we try to take it all in, this rapid fire, almost bumper sticker-style of communication can sometimes feel like sensory overload. The danger here is that people begin to tune each other out, or even shut down in regards to important issues altogether. Likewise, this need to get to the point quickly often makes for curt and, in some cases, down right rude online public conversation.

As Mark Twain once famously stated, “There is nothing so annoying as having two people talking when you’re busy interrupting.” This quote was made back in the late 1800s and was, most assuredly, meant for literal face to face conversation. But today in social media, instead of two people talking while one is interrupting, it is more like 2 million.

Everyone wants to be heard, and, these days it seems, even wants to be right.

All in all, thanks in great part to social media, we — as a nation — have learned well how to use our freedom of speech, and voice our opinions. In the process, however, we also may have lost a little thing called diplomacy. In so doing, collectively we may have distorted our perspective and created an imbalance when it comes to both sides of communication, which includes not only output but input as well.

The good thing is, considering that virtually everyone does seems to be talking, we might already be halfway to fixing the problem. Although the fast pace of the internet often implies we have little time and space to stop and consider opinions that differ from our own, the truth, if we care to think about it, might just be the opposite.

And even it is not — if the old adage, “United we stand, divided we fall,” is true — it seems that if we wish to succeed as a nation, and even perhaps as human beings in general, it might be in our best interests to do so anyway. At very least, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Rebecca Lux Soc is a part-time student at the University of Maine at Augusta currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. A non-traditional student and a wife and mother, she enjoys participating in various programs and conferences on campus, working as a peer writing tutor, and is always seeking out more of the many activities and events the University has to offer for both students and the greater community.

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