Flirting with Facebook
I’m flirting with Facebook.
A lot of my friends spend hours on Facebook, writing status updates, playing games, taking quizzes, and “friending” people they’ve never met. A few family members are on. Even some departments at my school have Facebook pages. If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth-largest country in the world. So I decided to give it a try.
I put up a profile and played a few games, but that’s about all so far. Between school, studying, and having fun with real-life friends, I don’t see where some people get the time. Of course, if it makes them happy, then I guess it’s a good thing.
The current issue of Scientific American Mind questions how good or bad online social networking really is. As usual, some studies say it’s fine for some people, while other studies say it’s harmful to other people. But a few interesting facts came out:
- Spending time online doesn’t make you lonely or depressed if you aren’t already. A 2008 study at California State University, Los Angeles found that “Neither total amount of time spent online nor time spent communicating online correlated with increased loneliness.” A 2006 study in Australia found that “the amount of time spent interacting online is unrelated to higher levels of anxiety or depression.”
- But if you’re already lonely, going online might not help. Because there is no face-to-face contact, people tend to take online relationships less seriously. To someone who is already lonely, “Insults, snubs, alienation, and gossip all elicit much higher levels of stress. The effect is amplified online …” If you are insecure, it can hurt to have only a few people in your “friends list” while you see other people who have hundreds. It can also hurt if you say the wrong word to someone and get abruptly “de-friended.”
- Social networking is best when it supports real-life friendships. “The social networkers who fare the best are the ones who use the technology to support their existing friendships.” An Australian study in 2007 found that “using social networks diminishes loneliness when online social contacts are also offline contacts.”
Rinth’s Rules for Social Networking
So here are my rules for social networking. I hope they make sense to you:
- Don’t expect online friendships to substitute for real, face-to-face friendships. It rarely works. Online friendships work best when they supplement real-world relationships with the same people. We evolved to need face-to-face encounters with other people. Our biological and psychological needs for human contact are left unsatisfied by relationships that consist only of words flashing across a computer screen. If you’re lonely, go out and meet some people. If you’re shy, it will be harder but you can do it.
- Don’t expect an “online life” to substitute for your real life. It won’t work. We aren’t built that way. You can spend 24 hours a day online, but it won’t make you happy. It will just make you empty and sleepy and in serious need of a shower.
- Don’t expect to be a different person online. You are who you are. And that’s good enough.
- Don’t base your self-respect on how many people are in your friends list. Those people who have 500 “online friends” barely know any of them. Are those real relationships? Remember the old saying: “Friends will help you move. Real friends will help you move bodies.”
- Don’t spend so much time online that it takes you away from your real life. No matter how bad you think your real life is, it won’t get better if you run away and hide in Facebook. Live your life, make real-world friends, study for your classes, work, play, and have fun.
Oh, and one more thing:
- Nobody cares that you just brushed your teeth. Give it a rest with the minute-by-minute status updates. Nobody’s life is that interesting. Mine sure isn’t. 🙂
Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.
"Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door."
-- Emily Dickinson
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