How Social Media Are Like Willy Wonka’s Gum

Just 10 or 20 years ago, I could not have imagined how easily I could use social media—and applications like Skype and Facetime—to stay in touch with people on the other side of the globe. Decades ago, I wrote letters to missionaries on onionskin paper to keep the mailing weight low. Today, I send and receive such letters with the touch of a button. I can find and purchase obscure movies and books without leaving my chair. The Internet has changed everything. We can have almost anything we want.

Those who’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—or who’ve seen the popular film adaptations—may remember that the gum experiment doesn’t end so well. Greedy Violet Beauregarde is so grasping and eager that she doesn’t bother to listen to Mr. Wonka’s warning (it’s “not quite right yet”) and chews away, turning herself into a giant blueberry at the end of the otherwise delicious gum-meal. I wonder if social media are something like that gum: satisfying to a point, but also harmful in unexpected ways.

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 12.27.47 PM

Moving beyond the meal metaphor to actual meals for a moment, it occurs to me that while many different studies have indicated the importance of eating meals with others to our physical, emotional, and social well-being—and especially that of children—we often interrupt those meals by interacting with people who aren’t physically in the room.

{Taken from my most recent post at her.meneutics, which you can read here.}

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