I find myself living in a world of constant communication, but because this communication, especially on Facebook, is so instant and short, sometimes it feels more superficial and less meaningful. Even though it makes keeping in contact with friends in the course of a busy schedule easier, I sometimes feel that I am missing out on shared experiences. The Atlantic addressed this paradox in the cover story of its most recent issue, “Is Facebook making us lonely?” I do not think that Facebook is making people lonely, though, I think that it has the potential for people to put themselves in isolation from friends and family, but it is not the direct cause.
The Atlantic’s article brings forth the debate whether Facebook is relied on to create, strengthen and maintain friendships and relationships or whether it sabotages them. According to the article, Facebook has made people more densely connected than ever. This runs the risk of isolation because a self-preserved and self-created society online only scratches the surface of the human condition.
This reliance on a virtual society and less of a society where people interact in person, and interact online instead, creates a gap in people’s interactions. What is lost are the essential human interactions that happen face-to-face which creates and ascertains these friendships. If Facebook became a relied-upon platform, instead of going to the movies together, there becomes a lack of experiences that would evade feelings of isolation. Sometimes writing a quick one-liner on a friend’s Facebook wall is more convenient, but relying on Facebook to be the root of the friendship encourages laziness in social interaction.
Another theory that Facebook causes isolation is rooted in the ideas of passive consumption of friends activities and the robotic broadcasting of one’s own activities in return. Basically this means creating pseudo-identities by monitoring achievements and then routinely sharing your own online. This meek interaction with others is what leads to loneliness because there is a lack of true human substance.
It is hard to not let Facebook be a crutch for friendships and relationships these days though. A lot of times I find myself so busy that it is simply easier to write on a friend’s Facebook wall. But these are superficial actions that merely prevent meaningful relationships.
That is why I do my best to be with my friends as often as possible despite our unruly schedules. But what if I relied only on Facebook to maintain these friendships? I would find myself with half-hearted relationships and a plethora of friends that I may have only met a few times. That is just it though, Facebook is not to blame for our feelings of isolation and loneliness — we are. Now, it can be nice to reconnect with distant friends from the past and to have a glimpse into what their new life is like. But the constant reliance on Facebook as a way to sustain friendships is what leads people toward feeling alienated. It depends upon the way it is used.
I think that Facebook is extremely helpful for people with long-distance friendships to stay in contact, especially if these friends are in different time zones. But in order to truly know what is going on in a friend’s life across the world, certain details must be shared, and having inclusive details of friends personal lives online for the rest of the world to see reduces privacy and also clears away the intimacy of the friendship because then everybody else can see it too.
Facebook has the potential to become a crutch for friendships. If used as a replacement for real, sustained communication, it can result in loneliness and seclusion. But if used as a tool for sharing real experiences with each other, companionship can be sustained.
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