Online socializing – blessing or curse?

Against my better judgment, I got ensnared into joining Facebook. For those of you who are not in the know, Facebook is an online social network that connects you with friends from the past, your next door neighbor, colleagues, ex-flames, you name it….  You can post as little and as much information as you want, and can share an unlimited number of photos, videos, etc.

The reason why I question the wisdom of joining is because I know myself and I do have a tendency to get distracted while I am working, and Facebook provides me with yet another mindless excuse to take just one more tiny break.  The good news, though, is that I reconnected with an old friend from my high school in England whom I have not seen or heard from in over ten years – Dalia, it was great “talking” to you! Thanks to online resources such as Facebook and blogging, the world is getting smaller and smaller by the minute, and in the words of Tom Robbins, “if the world gets any smaller, I will end up living next door to myself!”

From a psychological perspective, I question, though, how beneficial and “healthy” it is to become so immersed in the Internet that we withdraw into ourselves, and forget how to interact on a one-to-one level as human beings. In this day and age, real social encounters, I would imagine, run the risk of becoming awkward and potentially nerve-wracking. It is one thing to express yourself freely in the privacy of your home or office – after all, you don’t need to worry about contemptuous glares from your computer screens – but to reach out to another person in a public setting, such as a party, could be such an intimidating experience that you end up counting the minutes until you can return to the safety of your home, where you can type away on the keyboard to your heart’s content. 

This type of social anxiety brought on by trends in blogging and online chatting might sound extreme, and you may wonder which type of person would really be that socially inept as to experience the above, but my instinct tells me that such social angst happens more often than we think. I have an acquaintance, let’s call her Elizabeth, who seems to have a split personality. When I see her at parties, social get-togethers, and the like, she is withdrawn and quiet. She doesn’t come across as being shy- she just has a distant aura about her. When we chat online, however, it is literally as if I am communicating with another person altogether. There is no point of resemblance between Elizabeth A, who I see every now and again in public settings, and Elizabeth B who is extremely expressive and even eloquent. 

People feel like they can let their guard down in the virtual arena, and while that can be a potential blessing, because they can tap into parts of themselves they may never have discovered, and can access knowledge and information that would otherwise have been blocked to them, it can also be a curse and a vicious cycle. The more you become “hooked” on blogging and online socializing, the harder it is to venture out of your cocoon and face the real world.

I would imagine, although I am not speaking from experience, that this problem applies to the world of dating. You meet a fantastic guy on a dating site – you have so much in common and you count the minutes until you next see him online (you can see where this is going). It gets to the point that you decide you want to take your online relationship to the next level – let’s set up a date. The big night arrives and you are sitting at a table facing a complete stranger, and you are tongue-tied. Suddenly all your mutual interests, likes, and dislikes evaporate into thin air – how do you make the adjustment from writing cute little messages with no real repercussions to interacting with a person face-to-face and establishing a real relationship? Anyway, just some food for thought. As always, I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

Before I go, though, just to present the other side of the coin, I read today that an 107-year-old woman in Australia has just started writing her blog. Considering I never grew up knowing my GRANDPARENTS, let alone GREAT-GRANDPARENTS who reached the 100-year milestone, it is an incredible concept that this centenarian is going to be sharing the pearls of her wisdom with the rest of the world.

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part-time buddha

14 years ago

I agree with all of this, and it’s exactly why I used that quote from Fierce Invalids as the title of my blog.

Sorelle

14 years ago

I checked out your blog – very nice! I especially like your theory about women one day ruling the world – I can’t argue with that – and I won’t even begin to talk about the fact that you have a signed copy of Fierce Invalids!
How did you get that?

part-time buddha

14 years ago

I met Mr. Robbins at a sort-of symposium (the nature of the event that he headlined is, as you might expect, difficult to classify) about two years ago. (I posted about it here: http://part-timebuddha.squarespace.com/koans/2006/10/1/under-the-influence.html)

I also have signed copies of Jitterbug Perfume (the book that got me hooked), and Still Life with Woodpecker.

Thanks for the kudos on my blog. I’ve been enjoying yours too!

Double Take › Learning to recognize the signs…

13 years ago

[…] So why is she back now, I hear you ask. Well, the answer is FACEBOOK. I have become addicted to something I swore from the outset that I would never let myself get suckered into. Facebook, as a social networking tool, is fine and dandy, and reconnecting with old pals is definitely a nice thing, although the point could be argued that there is a reason why people lose touch with each other, and if someone is important to you, you pick up the phone. Well, that’s an argument for another day. In fact, I talked about this very subject a while back…  […]