In Stephen Marche’s article Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?, it’s easy to see where he has found the dots in believing that Facebook, as well as other social networking sites are creating more shallow relationships and isolating Americans. While I see how he came to the conclusion, I feel like Marche has connected his dots a bit too cleanly with a broad-felt marker rather than a fine-point pen.
In his article, Marche describes social media to be more of a person-to-person connection, in which everyone connects with everyone randomly. In reality, when a person first joins a site like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ it begins with them connecting to their friends and family, their immediate contacts. These are people they most likely talk to on a regular basis. As these connections expand, it’s to second degree connections – friends of friends, sisters of boyfriends, cousin’s fiance’s, etc. The third degree being people in similar schools, jobs, and towns. Once a user gets to the point where they’re being bombarded by updates and photos of people they don’t even talk to in real life. This is where the sense of isolation lies, not that people are spending too much time on these site, but that these sites are filled with people they don’t know.
In the August 6, 2012 episode of the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media as well as author of the book Talking Back to Facebook offered his two-cents on the way people use social media today. The means by which social media has improved the social lives of people are just as astounding as the claims being made by Marche.
He talked about having a “media diet” which limits time spent on these sites as well as how we use them. Doing so will allow users to “deal with [time spent on Facebook] in their own ways, relating to people and taking advantage of new technologies but not letting it to completely dominate our lives.”
Steyer also talked about the roles of parents and their children, discussing how the internet forces parents to have conversations with their children regarding social issues such as sexuality, body image and bully. “Empathy is an important thing for parents to talk about with kids,” said Steyer, “In an age where Cyber Bullying has been in the news the last few years, it’s important for everyone to understand how we’re supposed to communicate and treat other human beings.”
In Marche’s piece he writes, “We should recognize that is it not use isolation that is rising sharply. It’s loneliness, too. And loneliness makes us miserable.” With that said, I think it’s important to instead of finding excuses as to why we’re lonely, pointing fingers at the world wide internet for a scapegoat, but to change our behavior. Taking a step away from technology and into the sunlight, where we can have a conversation with each-other that doesn’t end with “TTYL.”