Sunday, February 3, 2013

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

This article made me think about Dr. Donnelly's comment last week in class regarding facebook. He mentioned how he deletes friends every once in a while in order to keep his friends list under 100 people. In his other class that I am in, Introduction to Digital Literacies, he asked the class a poignant question: how many of your facebook friends are you actually legitimate friends with (communicate/hang out with regularly)?

The article makes a similar point via Google+: "When you sign up for Google+ and set up your Friends circle, the program specifies that you should include only “your real friends, the ones you feel comfortable sharing private details with.” That one little phrase, Your real friends—so quaint, so charmingly mothering—perfectly encapsulates the anxieties that social media have produced: the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer."

Is this what Facebook is doing to us?

I found this to be a very compelling point. My first reaction was one of agreement, with the exception being that to me, facebook is a tool that provides an opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family many states away. However, when I thought about it more, the times that I'm on Facebook for extended periods of time are when I'm by myself and am bored. Plus, my interactions with friends and family, with minimal exceptions, are quite trivial. That's not to say they aren't enjoyable, they are just comfortable and easy and don't really delve into anything personal.

An interesting study that is apparently on-going, yielded these remarks:

"She [Burke] concludes that the effect of Facebook depends on what you bring to it. Just as your mother said: you get out only what you put in. If you use Facebook to communicate directly with other individuals—by using the “like” button, commenting on friends’ posts, and so on—it can increase your social capital. Personalized messages, or what Burke calls “composed communication,” are more satisfying than “one-click communication”—the lazy click of a like.

On the other hand, non-personalized use of Facebook—scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, or what Burke calls “passive consumption” and “broadcasting”—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness. It’s a lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear. "

Another interesting quote from the article: "Does the Internet make people lonely, or are lonely people more attracted to the Internet?" was also very interesting. It takes a step back from just looking at Facebook and instead questions the internet's overall effect on us.

Towards the end the author states: "LONELINESS IS CERTAINLY not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us. We are doing it to ourselves."

I've given a few quotes from the piece (it's long but a worthwhile read - though I admit that towards the end I started skimming a bit), but my question is: What do you think?

Does the internet make us lonely? Does Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Message Boards? Is this our doing? Are things improving? Getting worse?


  1. I can't speak for everyone, but Facebook has not made me lonely in my experience. However, it may be associated with loneliness in that I sometimes use it when I am feeling lonely, or as you said, bored. Even this may be slightly detrimental though. After all, what did people do about loneliness before Facebook existed? I'd assume, more times than not, they'd go hang out with friends and have real face-to-face interactions. Now, we may find it a little easier to creep on them through the internet, which could potentially stunt social and coping skills. So overall, I think I agree with the author's statement that "Loneliness is certainly not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us. We are doing it to ourselves."

  2. I do not think the internet is to blame for loneliness; however, I think the internet can contribute. I agree with Jacob in that people used to have face to face conversations before, whereas now they exchange that for a "like" or comment on a Facebook status. Maybe loneliness is not the issue but rather our means of communication is. People are still social but in different ways-more indirect ways. We could have a thousand conversations with people but never really see them. I would have to say that things are improving and getting worse. Things are improving by making communication easier than ever. If there is important information you need to tell a mass amount of people, you can do so with a click. I think things are getting worse by people possibly losing pragmatic skills. Pragmatics used to be a necessary aspect of language but maybe not anymore.

  3. The Internet's influence on me is the absolute opposite of what could be defined as 'loneliness'. I have met so many warm, fun, and interesting friends from all across the world by playing online video games, and browsing internet forums and IRCs. Yes, this method of meeting people is extremely different then the face-to-face, but it opens opportunities to meet people you wouldn't be able to due to geographical restrictions. While this practice is more directed to the introverted type of person, it allows the introvert to be social. This is what social media is for. Projecting yourself and being heard by others, communicating with others, in new, young, and innovative way that is misunderstood. Social media isn't making us lonely. I will agree with the original post though. It's not the website's or internet's fault for people being closed-up, it's the human's decision to be social or not.

  4. I agree with most of the comments above. I think that people are turning to social media rather than face-to-face interaction with people now, which doesn't necessarily lead to lonliness, just a different view on friendships and relationships. While I often use Facebook or Twitter as something to look at when I'm bored, I often seek out the individuals that I actually have communications with outside of the Internet. I don't turn to social media and the Internet for companionship, but rather as something to occupy spare time.

    I do think however, that the lack of personal communication that people have now because they are turning to social media, may pose difficulties in the future. People want to socialize with one another, not just read what they post as a status or tweet out. Lonliness could become more relevant if people use the Internet as their only means of interactions with others.

  5. I can see both sides. Of course, I like to comment on friends' posts. I like to indulge in communication. But most of the time, I'm skimming to see what else some of my "friends" are doing. I more than likely shudder when I read most of their posts and see a grammatical error. But it never crosses my mind to think I'm alone.

  6. I love the response to this topic! First, I'd agree that the way we use our Facebook on the intentional level makes a difference. At first, I was all for keeping up with friends from back home. A person who grew up in a small town that just about knows everyone, you sometimes want to keep your connections when moving away to college. However, over time we change. I have lost the interest to interact (if we could call it that) with friends back home. We don't have anything in common, they all have babies or spouses, they lack higher education, and they complain about the same old things. I don't have those connections from home anymore.

    Therefore, my use of Facebook is not like it used to be. I'm not as interactive, but I still like it because people that I have met here in college I can have for time to come. When they live across the state or the country, I can still check up on them without busting a large phone bill or international bill. It's a matter of convenience that serves each of us differently.

    However, going back to the loneliness questions, Facebook and Twitter are like any other tool. We can use it for "good" or for "evil". If we use Facebook to stalk people, I would say that's not a good intention. If we use it to understand someone before approaching them, its not to say it's makes us lonely; perhaps cautious, but not lonely.

    Loneliness is not the real question here. I think the interaction level we share with each other is the real problem. We can still chat and tweet to others making us feel loved and appreciated. That's not loneliness. Deciding to watch from afar and never approach people while hiding behind a profile picture or a name on a message board is loneliness to the fact that this person is choosing to isolate themselves cutting off meaningful interaction, via internet or not.

  7. I don't blame digital media for making us lonely, but it can amplify our feelings if we're already feeling that way. It's easy to feel disconnected when you're passively consuming your friends' facebookery.

    Of course, everyone uses Facebook in their own way. Some people rely on it to stay connected to friends and family, some people use it as a sharable photo album, some people use it to play games... I can go on and on.

    The point is, Facebook is what we want it to be. Social people are going to be social (what is "social" today?) and lonely people are going to be lonely.

    Personally, I feel disconnected from Facebook, but it's not because I felt lonely.

    I wrote a blog post a couple years ago about why I don't like Facebook. For the most part, I stand by what I said. The only difference now is that I have cut Facebook from my daily life.

    Feels good, man.

  8. When I started using Facebook, it was to keep in touch with a friend that had moved to Kentucky (swaying me from MySpace—which I still have but don't use). And it was a great way for us to communicate at the time, but we rarely talk anymore. Over the years my use of Facebook has dwindled down to rarely “using it” (to comment or interact in some way) and entails me just looking at my news feed when I am bored (which is greater when I am in school). One of the others talked about using Facebook as a tool and I think that is a great description of it. Everyone will use Facebook differently; some will use it for their social reasons and others, like me, will use it to be kept in the know of what’s happening. I know I learn a lot just from my news feed about back home (like recently learning about people passing away that I knew) and news pieces that my friends posted that I never would have looked at otherwise.

    I don’t know if I want to call that being lonely. I mean I know I personally don’t get that face-to-face contact with the “friends” I have on Facebook, but that is why I have friends in my life that I do have that contact with. There is still interaction. I suppose I would say that Facebook, or the internet in general, doesn't make us lonely but it can isolate people from the world if they let themselves be. But more than likely they find others to communicate with through the use of the internet. So I guess my question would be what does loneliness mean that people can identify with when everyone’s definition and perception can/is different?

  9. I think media in general is a way for us to take comfort in hiding ourselves- it lets us make a cover for ourselves. I sometimes wonder if we do this unintentionally and then become comfortable with it? I think this is true especially for the younger children who are growing up with this as the norm. But I think it will come to a point when society will regulate itself- and learn from what is and is not working.