Friday, July 15, 2011

Social Networking or Avoidance of Real Intimacy

We are living in the Facebook Generation.  For better or worse, Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites are how we get our news about friends, families and even total strangers who have enough courage to share openly on the information superhighway.

I wonder what our grandparents would have thought of Facebook, or how our grandchildren will view it.  Our grandparents probably would have thought we were putting all our business in the streets.  And we are.  Our grandchildren hopefully will have moved past this and found a better way to connect with one another.  That will remain to be seen.

Are we making personal conversations and guys (girls) night out a thing of the past?   Instead of real intimacy, are we choosing the safer and more immediate solution of observing our friends through status updates and notes?  I think on some level we do opt for the Facebook way. We can see at a glance how the people in our lives are.  We can also see if someone is having a bad day and maybe it's time for that phone call we've been putting off.

We learn when our friends lose their jobs, get new ones, meet Mr.or Ms. Right and then lose Mr. or Ms. Right.  We watch relationships move from "single" to "it's complicated" to "in a relationship" before both parties are aware of where the relationships are going.  We are voyeurs in each other's lives.

Sometimes we learn of the death of a friend, we might not have heard about for days. Then Facebook seems like a good idea.  We watch how the people this person touched make comment after comment about how this person affected their lives.  The whole world suddenly gets smaller as you find you're grieving the same loss of a friend as someone thousands of miles away.  It's not a hug, but it is something.

There are smarter people than I who will study how Facebook affects relationships, but I can tell you that I think it does bring us together in ways we couldn't have imagined a few years ago.  Sure, it's not as intimate as sharing a cup of coffee with a friend, but if you use Facebook correctly, you can set up that coffee date and tell your friend how you're really doing, and you can do it  in more than 140 characters.

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