The Dark Side of Social Networking
I admit I was dragged into social networking kicking and screaming. For the Star Trek fans out there, facebook was a little like the Borg: it was out there, threatening to assimilate me. Resistance was futile, and assimilation was inevitable. But even then I swore I would never write a blog. I really thought blogging was the ultimate narcissism, giving everyone a soap box whether or not they have anything to say. Of course now that it’s me, I know I have a lot to say, and of course it’s worth listening to. But again, I avoided it as long as I could. I was eventually convinced that the blog would be a good forum for continued discussion on the topic of Spiritual Blueprint and the Five Homes. OK, so I finally (and reluctantly) came around to the idea of a blog, but I was adamant that I was not going to do twitter. Maybe you see where this is going… I now have a twitter account. I think part of the reason I refused for so long is just that the names are so freakin’ stupid. “Blog”… “Twitter”… “Tweet.” It even sounds like only a twit would do it. It’s just downright annoying.
So, yeah… I happened to meet this guy named Tim. He and his wife run a bed and breakfast in Vermont called Forty Putney. Susie and I can’t wait to go there some day, it looks like a really cool inn. But anyway, Tim is kind of an expert in social media and networking, and he convinced me that I really needed to get into this. Thanks, Tim (read with lighthearted sarcasm masking a bit of actual gratitude).
Now, if you know my book, you know that one of the Five Homes is the Home for Your Heart – your relationships. And in a way, we all crave relationships. On the surface, facebook seems like it might be a great vehicle for building and developing relationships. And in fact, facebook has allowed me to reconnect with some old college friends (you know who you are), and some colleagues with whom I’d lost touch. But there’s a dark side to The Forcebook, where everything is connected. Even though it allows us to have ongoing conversations with hundreds of people at once, it also allows people who weren’t invited to your last party to know that you had a party, that they weren’t invited, and to see the pictures and hear about what a great time you had without them. Facebook provides the window through which those who were not invited look in.
I guess that’s the down side to belonging to the collective – you always know what the others are thinking about you. And it’s hard not to take it personally when people don’t “like” what you say, or comment on your posts. Social Networking is both inclusive and exclusive. On the one hand, we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves; on the other hand, we become privy to things that in the past would have been considered private. And some of those things might hurt our feelings.
It’s going to be no surprise that I think facebook is not a good substitute for real personal relationships. Especially for those of us who are more introverted and are really more comfortable with smaller groups of people. I want to say that facebook is just a collection of shallow relationships with a lot of people, which some people accept as a substitute for deeper relationships with a few people. I want to say that, but at the same time, the relationships we have with many people on facebook is sometimes shallow, and at other times embarrassingly intimate. It’s a weird combination of more personal details than we’re used to, along with being able to connect on a surface level with more people than we have ever been able to keep up with before. I’m not anti-facebook, but I remain skeptical about it. There are things I like about it, but the bottom line is it’s not really a relationship. It may allow you to keep in touch with people you wouldn’t otherwise talk to for a long time. But what does that mean, keeping in touch? In my experience, it usually just means short quips that are attempts at being witty, in response to people who post the most mundane details of their lives, or who are basically forwarding the stuff they’re reading on the internet. But is this really communication? I don’t think so.
So if you want true relationships, you have to get up off the couch, get out from behind the computer monitor, and go out of your way to meet with people in person, look them in the eyes, and talk about important stuff. But then please don’t post pictures of it and brag about what a great time you had so that your “friends” who weren’t there can wonder why they weren’t invited.