Sunday, August 28, 2011

Social Networking and Personal Contact

I had an interesting conversation with a friend, S, today about Social Networking. We don't talk much, and not just because he doesn't use Facebook, he is horrible at returning calls. He feels that social networking is the worst thing to happen to personal communication. And he just might be right.

A lot of people seem to think that sending a message on Facebook or leaving a comment on something is the same as actually having a real conversation. I had one friend who was next to impossible to get on the phone. So you had to leave messages. He wouldn't call you back, instead he would send you a message on Facebook.

To me that is a "What the kimchi?!?!?!" moment. Yes, I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family and it is cheaper than a long distance phone call. But when you live in the same bloody city it seems kind of stupid not to just pick up a phone and call.

In some ways Hilda was right with her "rules" of communication. If you didn't return her call the ball was in your court and often she wouldn't call you again. Her "rules" were kind of extreme, and of course she never applied them to herself, but there was some truth to them. If you call and leave messages for someone and they never call you why bother anymore? If you call and leave messages and all they can do is send you a reply on Facebook (and you are in the same town) what does that say about the state of your friendship? Is it so hard now to just pick up a phone and return a call?

According to my friend S, yes. He curses social networking and feels it is destroying the ability of people to communicate. I don't feel as strongly about it as him, but there are areas we agree. People do still communicate via social networks but in different ways. Ways that to me seem more impersonal. I don't think that is a good thing.

I think back to my ex-friend Jimmy and YouTube. YouTube and "friends" Jimmy had never met became more important to him than "Real Life". Or as I like to call it reality. His life started revolving around YouTube and his virtual friends. It became his medium for communicating with people. While I do believe you can make friends online I it isn't the same as having friends where you live that you can talk to face to face. Considering the number or whack jobs on the net you can't always be sure you "friend" is who or what they say they are.

Then you have the people who seem to collect friends on Facebook. I had a LOT of friend when I played games like Mafia Wars. But they weren't really friends, now they call them "game friends". Even now, after stopping the games and dumping a lot of "game friends" I still have too many. Friends of friends who sent a friend request. Someone I met once or twice or who was a casual acquaintance who sent a friend request. And for some reason I approved the request. (Stupidity? Apathy) There are a small number of REAL friends and family I use Facebook to communicate with the rest are just ... filler. (Which now has me thinking it is time to do a purge again and get rid of the deadwood.)

Is social networking destroying communication? No, in some ways it is expanding it and making it easier. However, it is making it more impersonal. And that is a problem.


  1. I used to write columns for a small newspaper before I started blogging. I would send copies of these columns (stories about my adventures in Korea and elsewhere) to friends and family along with a note about what I was doing and asking after them. Gradually I stopped getting responses from all but a very few people. After a while I stopped sending these people even courtesy e-mails. if they don't respond, I thought, why bother?
    I'm an introvert, so I don't have a lot to say in social situations, anyway. Maybe facebook is contributing to my withdrawal from society, maybe not.
    I look at it as a way to sort of see what my friends and family are doing, but it is no substitute for actual face-to-face contact.

  2. You are right, it is no substitute. I can understand when distance separates but when you live in the same town it is strange.