Column: Secret Admirers: Can’t We Just Say “HI?”

By Brandon Pope, WCRD.net, April 17,2013

It’s a weird world we live in. People can be spotted in the most public of places taking “selfie” photos of themselves. If you’re not careful, you could literally bump shoulders – or even heads – with distracted pedestrians. Maybe old people have a point; or maybe I’m just old fashioned. But it seems to me modern technology has completely obliterated the concept of social skills. I came to this conclusion when a new Facebook page captivated the young hearts and minds of Ball State students: The Ball State Secret Admirers page.

The page is a feed of anonymous messages from “secret admirers” to their potential love interests.  Messages are sent confidentially through a Google form. This means anyone can say anything with no repercussions. But there are gatekeepers: two administrators who monitor the posts and decide what shows up on the page. They claim 85 percent of the posts they receive make it onto the site. The site receives more than 500 posts a day. Since the creation of the page on March 26th, it has reached more than 6,000 likes.

One post read: “I think you’re a super cutie with your short blonde hair and a super nice guy from what i’ve seen. I think you live somewhere in Edwards and i’d love to meet up sometime.

–       From the girl working out next to you from Tuesday”

If you were working out next to him, why not just tell him that in person?

Or how about this creepy one that I received: “Dear black guy in the purple polo and black sports coat, You’re really cute and smell yummy. Sincerely, your secret admirer.”

I’m sure it took more time to type that message out confidentially then it would have to tell me in person. Seriously, they were close enough to smell me!

There is no doubt a service like this can be effective. I know of two people who have benefitted from this secret match making. But it highlights how face-to-face communication has failed, even in the dating sector.

According to a study by Michael Chan, a Language Studies professor from the community college of City University, Hong Kong, modern forms of electronic communication alter the behaviors that individuals share in public situations.

Chan breaks communication down into four different sources: immediate feedback, social cues, personalization of messages and expression through natural language. Because of these four verbal communication is considered the strongest.

Technology like social media has created an outlet for shy individuals to avoid verbal communication and face-to-face contact. It is also creates more anti-social behavior in people. This is because facial expressions and tone of voice are completely thrown out the window with modern communication technology. Without these necessary skills, people develop an inability and awkwardness in social situations.

Tools like the admirers page also make mockery easier. Cyber bullying continues to plague high schools. The problem can easily spread to Ball State. Nothing is stopping someone from writing a post that is not even meant to be a compliment.  An innocent student could easily be duped into thinking they really do have a secret admirer. That’s just mean.

When we get to the point where simple compliments need to be confidentially communicated online, we’ve hit a social wall. It’s as simple as a hello. Or even a smile. It seems as if social skills are dead in this generation. But maybe I’m just old fashioned.

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