Saturday, January 14, 2012

Isolation and Social Networking

This post is another blast from the past. Back in my Xanga days, I wrote this post. I find that it still holds true today. The fact that you're here makes me think you tend to agree with me. What do you think? Is social networking really social, or is it a substitute for making actual connections with people?

From August 7, 2009
Last week a gentleman on television was talking about the benefits of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He pointed out that "isolation is punishment." In prisons, if they want to punish a prisoner they put him in isolation.

Man is a social being, and as the Lord said, "it is not good for man to be alone." Some folks are concerned that face-to-face social interaction is being displaced by virtual social networks and criticize these interactions as not only inferior but counterfeit, not "real" interaction at all.

The problem with that attitude is that if not for these Internet networks, many people would be sentenced to isolation. Many older people who are unable to drive themselves make use of social networks to relieve their isolation. What about those with disabilities that make face-to-face communication difficult or even impossible? They are able to interact comfortably with others through this medium.

And then there are those of us with "social anxiety." We used to call it just plain shyness. Those of you who don't suffer from it tend not to understand it. And unfortunately, some outgoing people are judgmental of the shy; they have a "just get over it" attitude. If only it were that easy.

So as a shy person, I am thankful for outlets such as Facebook. In a crowd you will ordinarily see me standing off to the side or near someone I know very well, typically a family member. I seldom if ever join a conversation in progress. Those of us with social anxiety tend to think we would be unwelcome, so we don't intrude on a group. The reality that we WOULD be welcomed doesn't matter because shyness is completely irrational. Those with social anxiety feel isolated, realize that the isolation is of their own making, and can't do anything about it.

BUT...there is Facebook. On FB, I'm not shy. I jump into conversations with only a little thought as to whether I might actually be unwelcome. After all, if the discussion weren't open to everyone, it wouldn't be on FB. On FB and Xanga, I am myself, the way my close friends and family know me. I am the REAL me. Because of this, I am able to get to know my friends better and, wonder of wonders, to make new friends. Through Xanga and FB I have come to love people whom I've never met and know that they love me too.

Now I know that any of you reading this are obviously not critical of social networks. After all, you're here. But when you hear others fretting about Americans' lack of "real" social interaction, tell them for me that this is as real as it gets!