February 1, 2011

SOCIAL networking

"Whether in rekindled romances facilitated by Facebook friendship or outraged ventings of opinion on a blog, offline selves are being influenced by online personae in ways society has yet to fully comprehend"
-Carol  Haggas

I went to Barnes & Noble last night to waste some time.  I wandered around until I found my favorite sections:  Psychology, Relationships, Dating/Marriage.  You get the idea.  I skimmed over all the titles until one caught my attention:  Virtually You:  The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.  I was immediately drawn to the book and started to read the preface.  Unfortunately, I was only able to read a few lines before I had to leave the store.

I thought it was interesting I saw that book at that time because for the last few days I've been thinking a lot about social networking and technology and how it has impacted the way we interact with one another, how we portray ourselves and how we respond to the portrayal of others.  I'll warn you, my thoughts on this are crazy, so this might be a long post.

How We Interact
The ways in which we interact with one another has completely changed thanks to the Internet and cell phones.  With the help of e-mail, we can take care of business, personal issues or even just say hello without uttering a single word.  And, to get around not hearing fluctuation of voices which can usually signal when someone is upset, being sarcastic, or joking, we've improvised by using smiley faces :), winks ;), TYPING IN ALL CAPS, ending sentences like this....., using strikethrough, and a variety of acronyms like LOL, my personal favorite.  Thanks to cell phones, we now have the ability to do all of this and more in the palm of our hand.

While all of this is technology is wonderful and useful in so many ways, is it costing us in others?  I think the video above illustrates my point exactly.  Are we completely incapable of having meaningful, face to face, one on one conversations?  Are we so wrapped up in our gadgets that, if we lost it, we, ourselves, would be lost?  Do we even memorize phone numbers anymore?

Personally, I hate verbal confrontation.  I'd rather do anything than confront someone and talk about something uncomfortable (wether it's delivering bad news or even expressing my feelings) regardless of how important it may be.  I'll admit, I am guilty of using e-mail and text messaging to interact with people about subjects that really should've been talked about in person.  Not only would it have avoided miscommunication (because of no voice fluctuation), it also would've been a good experience for me to get over my issues with confrontation.  Plus, depending on the situation, it most likely would've brought me closer to the person I was talking to.

How We Portray Ourselves and How We Respond to the Portrayal of Others
I first started to dissect my thoughts on this matter after I reconnected via Facebook with an old friend I met during college.  It had been at least 10 years since I had seen or heard from her.  I browsed through her pictures, learned that she was married, and had one daughter.  Her husband had even started his own business.  Her pictures varied from family gatherings to trips to Hawaii and Central America.  I thought to myself, "Wow, she's doing really great."  I envied all the many things she was doing and compared it to my own life.  Was I traveling enough?  Was I too cautious?  Was I not exposing my daughter to enough fun and new experiences?  Why couldn't I look like that, dress like, etc.?

Her husband's business interested me, so I visited the website to learn more.  I later sent her an e-mail via Facebook to congratulate her on all his success.  It was then that the rose colored glasses came off, and I learned more about her life, specifically that the business was very slow and her marriage was very rocky.  Overall, she was unhappy.

For some reason, I was really shocked by this news.  I wasn't shocked because her profile portrayed a very happy life (because we all know people only post their best foot and only their best foot on Facebook).  I was more shocked, despite my knowledge, that I had fed into it.  I didn't once wonder that she had to have some sort of issues.  I took what I saw and didn't think twice about it.  And worst of all, I let her seemingly success and happiness question my own life, my own happiness, my own success, etc.

I really should give Facebook a break, the same "happy-everything-is-great-in-my-life" personae can also be said for blogs.  People document their special days or everyday doings for their friends and family to see.  And I really think it is a great way to stay in touch with people, especially if you live far away from loved ones.  In addition, we can blog hop and view posts written by people we don't even know - people that are friends with a friend who is a friend of my cousins.  Like Facebook profiles, viewing blogs and blog hopping has more than once second guessed my own life.  It made me envious, sometimes even jealous even when it came to the dumbest things like the blog layout:  "Where did they get that fun font?"  "Why doesn't my blog look as fancy as this one?"  And so on.

One thing I have noticed with blogs is when people divert from the typical "this is what I did this weekend" posts and write about something more serious, like their faults, difficulties or feelings, they apologize for it.  They apologize because they think it probably wasn't an interesting post, or it was a downer post or a boring post.  I personally find those posts more interesting than anything.

On the Flip Side
I could be taking a mole hill and making it a mountain.  It is very possible that the things I described aren't the norm, and that I very well could be the only person that reads too much into blogs or profiles.  I tend to overanalyze things - a lot.

It's also possible that people aren't quite as candid online because they don't want to be.  They aren't necessarily hiding things, they just aren't sharing things that they deem too personal.  I have certainly omitted things from my online self that just wasn't anybody's business.

To Sum It Up
What do you think?  Is social networking is getting out of control?  Do we need to be spending more time in person together?  Are people's online personae's influencing how we see ourselves to a point where it could be dangerous, even damaging to our own self-worth?



  1. Dang it! Life isn't all rosey? SHOOT! I know when I post painful or uncomfortable entries it makes other uncomfortable and stand offish for a while. So, I guess we all put on the happy face so others can be happy too.

  2. Have you seen The Social Network?

  3. No, not yet Bev. I want to see it, but I think I'll wait until I can RedBox/Netflix it.

    Have you seen it?

  4. I think the directness that I've developed online has helped me to be more direct in person, too. I don't know if it's normal, but that's been my experience.

    I do think people tend to put their best faces forward online, which isn't entirely bad. But I don't think we should be afraid to admit that everything's not perfect. We can find support in unexpected places when we open up a little about our vulnerabilities.

  5. Yes, we do spend WAY too much time online. I try to unplug for the majority of every weekend just to get back in touch with the real world.

    Also, I find those perfect people/blogs very boring.

  6. YES! You can redbox it now. Do it.

  7. Ok, so I'm finally ready to comment on here. I've been a little bugged at people on facebook lately. Fist off let me say, I communicate much better through email...does that count as social networking? I think I can get my point across much better and I don't stutter or get frustrated and embarrassed like I do talking to people in person. It's probably not good for me to email as much as I do but it's much easier. Back to facebook...sometimes I wonder why I post anything on there. People think they can just say and comment whatever they want on what you post. You know? No, I didn't post that I have the flu so I can hear what your father in law thinks of the flu shot! No, I didn't say I'm sick of doing laundry so I can hear you say "oh yeah...I have X amount of loads to do...beat that!". It's like everything's a contest to be the best/worst at ANYTHING. Sometimes I can hardly stand to read what people comment. does that make me a bad person? Whew...that's all. Sorry for the rant.

  8. Bev - I e-mail a lot too. I'm totally with you on how it makes you sound better, clearer and not all flustered. I definitely think e-mail is a good way to communicate.

    I'm just wondering if it's replaced face to face conversations and, if so, is that a good thing?

    Facebook is annoying me too. I've started to put really meaningless status updates that are more humorous to me than anybody else. It entertains me and keeps me from getting comments that totally bug.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks me a question then a completely other person answers for me.

    I also hate it when people start their own independent conversations on my status updates. It's so crazy how I can start out saying one thing, but by the end two people have lunch plans.


    I've thought a lot about closing my account just because it's so annoying, but it is a good way for me to keep in touch with people and I guess that's the most important thing.

    Thanks for your rant. I loved it!

  9. It's so easy to get caught up in the "social network" I try to keep a handle on it, plus my husband will tell me you're on the computer (or phone) too much. Good thing he keeps me in check :)

  10. I had the same experience on FB - looking at other people's lives and becoming envious or jealous. I quit FB back in November. I had been planning on doing it for about a year, but just couldn't bring myself to do it (like it's an addiction or something, bad huh?) Then one morning after a fitful night of dreaming of all the people (ex-boyfriends mostly), that I read status updates on, I got out of bed at 6am came straight downstairs to the computer and deactivated my account. Just so you know, so should you ever decide to cancel, it appears they make it extremely easy to re-activate it. They said just log back on with your username and password. I haven't yet, but I have been very tempted, on let's just say, about 100 occasions!

    I wish I had more courage to confront people in person about issues, but I am the type the resorts to email to get clear, concise thoughts down as well!

  11. I agree with you on everything! Some things are good for keeping in touch if you live far away, but comparing lives is not and can leave you feeling bad when you weren't before.

    This post makes me glad I'm not on Facebook.


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