This morning, my Facebook page refused to open. Apparently Chrome could not open www.facebook.com just when I had wallposts / messages to respond to (Nah, I’m not particularly popular – they were birthday wishes). After the third try, I had become frustrated. The very familiar feeling I would experience regularly a few years ago when I had been a Facebook addict. As soon as I couldn’t log on, before even the third try, I’d panic and wonder what’s happening online in my absence.
I am proud to admit that those days are over. What did occur to me, though, is the worth of a wallpost today. Something that didn’t even exist, say, 10 years ago. A decade ago, wishing someone a happy birthday meant going over to see them, or meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant. Only if neither could be done, a phone call would suffice. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the wishes received, be it over any social platform. It’s the evolution of communication and how it shapes our daily experiences, activities, and development that got me thinking.
The need for face-to-face interaction has been narrowed down to only when it’s convenient or absolutely necessary: if you’re in the same vicinity, the seriousness of the situation, business, etc. How much does this influence us positively and negatively? We cannot deny the convenience and the decrease in costs when keeping up to date with news around the world, and online communication. Saving on a trip to physically visit someone, is saving time and money. Essentially, time is money. The instantaneous transfer of information from one location to another, anywhere in the world at any given time, effectively at the same cost is at our fingertips. Literally. The extent to which we manipulate this is evident in the shift toward the stark differences in the milestones in our lives. Today, the first milestone in a friendship is finally being able to meet in person. Back in the day, friendships only started from meeting someone in person. But is this good? Or bad? The dangers behind meeting people you know of through the internet are fairly common sense. We all know of someone who knows someone who knows someone who met with a “total freak” after months, even years, of chatting online.
Apart from our milestones taking somewhat a reversed role, what about our social and psychological development? Granted, we can reach more people with much less effort online, but what about being able to conduct ourselves appropriately when meeting people offline? How confident are we? Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction online, the etiquette of conducting ourselves offline is not the same. We’re able to have numerous ‘conversations’ with people online simultaneously but in reality, this is impossible. Attempting to do so would be preposterous.
According to Larry D. Rosen (Ph.D Psychology), social networking helps shy teenagers become more confident and outgoing. Internet users are twice as more susceptible to trusting people, and Facebook users are even more likely to be trusting, a 2011 study by Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed. The irony in being bombarded with information and news that ought to wisen us up a bit is actually making us a little gullible.
Furthermore, a study conducted years earlier at Carnegie Mellon University has revealed that excessive internet usage has lead to isolation, depression and loneliness. A lot of the time, people find it much easier to sit behind a monitor, tapping away at their keyboard making numerous friends, while in reality this feat is not as easy. The convenience of these friendships online are dealt with much more enthusiasm than the convenience of having friends personally. Hence the increasing shift to anti-social behaviour.
How do we strike a balance? Yep! You’ve guessed it – make sure you allocate enough time to each aspect vital to your social, mental, physical and emotional wellbeing online and offline. Make family holidays laptop-free, shopping times cellphone-free, and participate in activities that require you to meet with people on a regular basis. Then tweet about it just before getting into bed 😉