Mark Zuckerberg was truly onto something in launching Facebook. Okay, one of the world's biggest understatements. Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to take a Facebook “fast?” Indeed, all the popular software in the repertoire of social media available to any human and their computer is stirring important debate in 2013. Among these questions are whether or not shutting off your smart phone, closing out of Facebook, Twitter and the like, and taking a break from being “plugged in” is becoming de rigueur.
Taking it one step further, in fact, can going off the grid from time to time add value to your personal relationships? I tend to agree. But to imply that a person’s addiction to Facebook is caused by Facebook is part of a larger problem in our society today where we tend to blame anyone but ourselves for our screw-ups. Further, there is reasonable evidence to suggest that Facebook and other social media are not all bad.
In her recent article on TechNews Daily, reporter Francie Diep writes:
“Ever Facebook-stalked an ex to see whom he or she has been messaging with? It turns out that's an accurate way to measure how close two people are.
In a new study, researchers found that how often two people exchange publicly available wall posts, comments and pokes is a good measure of how close those two people say they are when asked. The correlation between wall posts and closeness means it's easy to identify people's best friends by crunching publicly available data.”
Four urban women in their 20’s who agreed to be interviewed by the Today Show recently admitted shutting off their smart phones for a few days felt oddly like going through actual withdrawal. Yet by the end of the experiment, the women appreciated the increased time they were able to focus on the non-virtual relationships right in front of them.
Diep’s article reflects a few other important conclusions from recent research about Facebook and relationships:
“The researchers also learned a couple other interesting things: Having the same employer, school, age or gender listed didn't predict friendships as well as frequency of Facebook interactions. And private data about the number of private messages exchanged didn't help the model predict friendship any better than did publicly available data.
The study findings support the idea that different methods of communication don't necessarily replace each other, the study authors wrote. In other words, people don't Facebook message their best friends less frequently because they see those friends face-to-face more often. Rather, people use all [of] the communication tech available to them to keep in touch with their close friends.”
In a clever, astute piece published on Jan. 3, 2013 in The Atlantic titled, “There's No Evidence Online Dating Is Threatening Commitment or Marriage,” senior editor Alexis C. Madrigal writes:
“And it's not wrong to say that Facebook wants us to do things. But if you stop talking to your cousins because it's easier to update Facebook than give them a call, it's not right to say that Facebook made you do that. If you stop reading novels because you find Twitter more compelling, it's not correct to say that Twitter made you do that. Maybe you like real-time news more than the Bronte sisters, no matter what your better conception of yourself might say.”
In her Jan. 4, 2013 article titled “Atlantic Runs Stupid Article About the ‘Death of Monogamy,’ Then Runs Righteous Takedown of Their Own Stupid Article” on Jezebel.com, an innovative general women’s interest and most irreverent website, Lindy West writes:
“Online dating, author Dan Slater [of The Atlantic] argues, is destroying monogamy by giving people (he says people, but he means straight men) too many choices (he says choices, but he means vaginas). The market is flooded! How is a man supposed to concentrate on the vagina that he is supposedly in love with when he could potentially upgrade at any time!?”
Don’t miss the drawings accompanying Mr. Slater’s “Death of Monogamy” article showing “the naïve, trusting girlfriend” going about her ordinary life whilst The Boyfriend is busy scanning his computer or smart phone for something more exciting. An exaggerated depiction of the world of committed relationships today to be sure but there is a grain of truth.
It is true that the chaos of our society today -- the tough economy, the high divorce rates, the recent unfathomable violence in Connecticut -- have all shaken our faith in the fundamentals. But as thinking people, it makes common sense to attend to balance in life. Balance does support healthy relationships, whether romantic, friendships or with your families. So put down your smart phone and shut down your computer from time to time, like all good things, they should be used in moderation. Or if you’re like me and sometimes curse them because you feel guilty going off the grid, remember you’re not President Obama. It’s all right for you to invite your best friend or boyfriend to have a cup of coffee with you, disconnect from technology, and make your focus the conversation and which biscotti to have.
“The question isn't, 'What do we want to know about people?', It's, 'What do people want to tell about themselves?'” – Mark Zuckerberg