OK, I couldn’t pass this one up because Facebook and Twitter have become such revolutionary mediums of a new type of communication. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein wrote about How Facebook Ruins Friendships. While the underbelly of the article is humor, there is some real truth to how this new form of communication might be affecting the quality of our relationships.
It’s worth taking a look.
On the one hand, many people have been able to connect with past friendships and it can be fun and meaningful to see what is going on with people in your life. It’s also a great medium to get the word out about extraordinary moments in life like having a baby or someone being ill. It can also be entertaining at times to read about what your friends are up to. This is all stuff that can lift someone’s spirit and in a way, make them feel more socially connected which is a hallmark of mental health.
However, is there a dark side?
In her article Bernstein says:
Like many people, I’m experiencing Facebook Fatigue. I’m tired of loved ones-you know who you are-who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts.
What about that? For many, Facebook and Twitter are becoming mild addictions where hours are spent reading up on so many different people. I don’t know about you, but I really know people who have now shifted their preference of communication from the telephone to social networks or texting.
If this becomes the primary way to communicate, i think it’ll be difficult to sustain deeper and more mindful relationships because we miss out on physical and emotional nuances that we would normally pick up in-person or on the phone. Bernstein quotes psychologist and author of “The Psychology of the Internet,” Patricia Wallace, “Online, people can’t see the yawn,” the love in another’s eyes, or the feeling of warmth that comes across in the inflection from a voice.
This is not meant to judge or condemn Facebook and Twitter. I’m on them both and know there are real benefits to them and they are a great source of play and can serve our mental health. But it is meant to just arouse some mindfulness to how you interact with them. Notice how much time you spend on these sites and ask yourself if you’d like to pick up the phone or schedule a time to see some of these people? How much time do you spend on them and is reading about you’re old acquaintance eating a Frito pie (a la Bernstein) benefit you in any way at all?
I’m not sure if there’s any research on this as of yet, but my guess and intuition tell me that spending time with other people in-person or at least via the phone provides a richer experience of connection than via the web.
Who knows what the next big website will bring, but in the meantime, is there a way to find a happy medium?
As always, please share your thoughts, questions, and experiences below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 26, 2009)
Last reviewed: 26 Aug 2009