The Dark Side of Social Networking

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.

Jim Papandrea


About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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2 Responses to The Dark Side of Social Networking

  1. Mandy says:

    Well said, Jim!

    I reluctantly succumbed to facebook and will admit to having a blog that I neglect more often than not, but I absolutely refuse to tweet! 🙂

  2. susanwbailey says:

    Good points. Long before Facebook I was very hooked on keeping up with my online friends, but they weren’t there when you were alone all weekend because your husband had to work, and you wanted to go to a movie. They aren’t just a phone call away when you are bursting with news. Most importantly though, the intimacy is just not there. I’ve found that whenever I take email friends to the next level of a phone call, that often there is a moment of awkwardness as you cross that threshold. Meeting them in person can also have that ‘moment’ before you realize, yeah, you’re really friends! So I’ve made a real point of making sure I have flesh and blood friends nearby, on the homefront.

    That being said, the web is the best way to meet other people who share your particular interest, particularly if that interest is a niche one, and way out of the mainstream. Case in point: I went on a reading binge this summer reading Louisa May Alcott bios and books. I was dying to meet other people, like a virtual book club. I reluctantly started a blog ( sharing my thoughts about her and her works, and used Facebook and Twitter to let people know the blog existed. After just a few months, we have a lovely little community sharing insights about our favorite author and it’s so much fun! I’ve even been able to meet a published author on the phone as a result, and I have a ‘pen pal’ in Bosnia!

    As a promotional tool, Facebook (especially) and Twitter are truly excellent at driving traffic to your blog or site. No wonder there are so many webinars out there targeted at businesses, teaching them how to use social networking to reach customers.

    Great blog Jim! Looking forward to more.

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