Monday, February 9, 2009

Social Networking or Social Fracturing

I really do enjoy spending some time on Facebook writing on friends' walls or sending messages, but I can't help but wonder if these sites are to some extent de-socializing. (Image: Wikipedia) I raise this question because they all encourage the use of remote communication instead of face-to-face discussion or even calling friends on the phone. To me, as much as I would advocate the utility of the internet to community, this raises alarm bells about how we communicate.

This topic has been tossed around a lot by "concerned parents" organizations and many others to no avail. Apparently, people simply don't see it as problematic for kids to be spending hours on FaceBook. But to put this into perspective, I believe that those who doubt the significance of this need to remember how the time in question was spent before FaceBook and MySpace.

Before the children (and teens) were sitting in front of their computer screens, they would be out and about with friends taking part in far more active pastimes. FaceBook time is increasingly overlapping what used to be hanging out with friends time.

But to stop worrying about the children for a few moments, there are also questions about how these social networking sites affect groups like university students and even older groups. The main concern I have is that the loss of 1-on-1 communication, in an unmediated way, limits how genuine our connections truly are.

When you have the time to look over something you wrote to a friend and get to edit out a bad wording or misstatement, you are mediating something that would have otherwise been communicated unfiltered. The filtration of debate is important because it presents the opportunity for communications to be less genuine because they are so heavily moderated.

Saying the wrong thing before you realize its the wrong thing is a very important part of friendship in my eyes. By removing these Freudian slip moments through moderation, the dialogue becomes a misrepresentation of what you were thinking at the time. So in some ways I believe that FaceBook communications are de-socializing because of this effect. A world where it becomes hard to make a mistake, is not a very human world in my eyes.