The “Anti-Social” Network Dilemma

Everyone talks about “social media” or “social networking”.  No, I am not talking about the movie.  Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. Blogs.  Yes, I am guilty of being addicted to this form of communication.  If you are reading this, then I dare say, so are you, even if only to a small degree.  Social networking is meant to be all about bringing people closer together.  It lets you share your news (happy or sad), thoughts and opinions to everyone quickly.  And it spreads the message far and wide.  It is simply technology helping make us all one big happy family.  YES!

As much as I love tweeting, and I just passed the 40,000th tweet milestone last weekend, I am also well aware of the negative impacts of this type of “social” interaction.  It is true that I have made many friends through Twitter – searching for a hashtag (#) and trending topics (aka “TT” in Twitterverse) will help you find others you have something in common with – but I am also aware of the effects of negative messages being spread via social networking sites.  After all, for anyone who has seen “the Facebook movie” or read the book on which the film was based, you would know that the site started life in a mean-spirited fashion.

I have written before about how my addiction to Twitter started – yes, I can blame it on my love for White Collar, but mostly, my addiction is fuelled by the fact that I am permanently attached to my BlackBerry.  It means that I can tweet anytime, anywhere, ALL the time, and EVERYWHERE!  And because I have Tweeps around the world in many different time zones, it means that at any point in time, I have at least one friend who will be online and available for a chat and catch up on what’s going on in other parts of the world. As one of my friend tells me, my little smartphone is more affectionately known amongst tech-nerds as the crackberry: “Hi, my name is Valerie and I’m addicted to my crackberry.  It has been 15 seconds since I last checked for a message.  When I have no new messages for longer than 10 minutes, I check for a mobile signal, and if that is not a problem, I reboot my phone, just in case the system has crashed like the blue screen of death I occasionally get on my computer.”

If you work from home, or in between jobs, or simply don’t get a lot of face-time with other people during the day, social networking via media such as Twitter and Facebook can be a great way to feel connected to others.  So with all this socialising with people all over the world, why is this what I call the Anti-social Network Dilemma?  After all, I have over 400 followers on Twitter and, not to toot my own horn too much, I have had people tell me they find my tweets somewhat amusing and entertaining!  So if this is a popularity contest, how could having 400+ followers possibly mean I may be anti-social?

For starters, I tweet when I am having dinner with friends and family.  I mean, people who are sitting next to me or across the table from me.  I tweet when I am watching TV to express my opinions on the dialogue, the scenes, the actors, their costumes, and so on.  I tweet when I am at the football – but heck, that is called “live tweeting”, something you do during a game where fellow fans express their joys, anger, frustration at every goal scored or missed.  I tweet when I am walking out of a cinema to give my 140-character review of the movie I have just finished seeing minutes before (I have so far managed to avoid tweeting during the movie, although oftentimes I have been tempted to give my running commentary to the general public to express my approval or disapproval of certain scenes).  I tweet when I am waiting for the train, or on the train, or complaining about blocking my path on my way off the train (well, that last part is a slight exaggeration – I would do that AFTER I get off the train because I don’t quite have the death wish to have someone push me off!).  And it takes every ounce of self-control not to tweet while I am in the car to express road rage, unless I am the passenger, in which case, it is free-for-all.  And so far, I have not got to the point where I am tweeting to the person sitting across my dinner table instead of having a proper verbal conversation but that is probably only due to the fact the majority of my “real-life” friends are not on Twitter.

Whilst some friends have been fascinated by my addiction to Twitter, others are simply annoyed.  I cannot say that I blame them.  It is somewhat akin to going on a date where your date spends the entire time taking phone calls from other people or answering emails/text messages instead of talking to you.  The ones who are fascinated want to know what I get out of it and want to know what kind of people are tweeting besides celebrities, crazy or not.  And after listening to my excited babbling for half an hour, I usually point them to my blog and suggest they also read all about it.

I am not quite as addicted to Facebook.  I do distinguish my Facebook usage from my Twitter usage:  I generally post an update to Facebook (I can even do this via my Twitter ‘app’ on my mobile at the same time without the need to log into Facebook to send separate updates) and just view the most recent 10 or so updates displaying on my wall when I’m online, whereas Twitter is for shorter and more immediate messaging.  However, I do know people who spend endless hours on Facebook playing online games (what’s Farmville? Haha – it’s a rhetorical question) and who no longer announce any news by phone or email and simply post a one-line status update on Facebook.  The personal touch is gone.  The expectation is that you will see their status update and they have done their part in spreading the good/bad news.  When I see some of my friends with 300+ friends on Facebook, I wonder how many of those people they actually do know.  And if they get news on their “Walls” from that many people, how do they expect to actually see anyone’s updates?  Surely it would be lost amongst the 700 other posts they get everyday?

With all the technology that allows us to communicate more and with a greater audience, have we lost our personal and social skills?  Have we forgotten how to communicate with each other by moving our mouths instead of our fingers?  Have you been guilty of neglecting your friends when you are sitting with them?  Have you become anti-social because you are too pre-occupied with socialising with people not in your presence?  What has been your most guilty situation?  I would like to think that I still have some verbal skills and that I am still capable of holding decent dinner conversations.  But that is just my opinion…my friends and family may think otherwise!  What has been your experience?  Let’s start the communications right here and share with me your experience, whether it is of yourself or someone you know.  You can always start the story with “there’s this guy I know…” – I promise no judgement shall be passed 🙂

Let’s start talking, people! xox




4 thoughts on “The “Anti-Social” Network Dilemma

  1. Christine

    This is such a great blog post. Because there is nothing I can relate to more. I don’t, however, think it’s made me more anti social. I see a sound bite all the time on tumblr that says “facebook is for all the people I know in real life…. tumblr/ twitter is for all the people I WISH I knew in real life.” And I think that says a lot. Most people we connect with on twitter are part of the same fandom or such. It allows us to block out our life into compartments: the people we talk about white collar with, the people we talk about work with, the people we talk about ___ with, etc. It’s a way for us to connect with people on every level of our personality (even if that means a different personality for each person).

    Ok, I have a couple of ridiculous but completely true examples for you:
    1) My friend and I are IMing online or talking on the phone AND I’LL TWEET HER ABOUT THE CONVERSATION WE’RE HAVING.
    2) My friend and I are standing next to each other at a concert AND WE’LL TWEET EACH OTHER (mostly because we can’t talk over the noise)
    3) My friend would be calling me, but I don’t hear my phone or pick up until she tweets me to pick up.


  2. Katelyn

    It is so difficult at times to talk face to face (or even on the phone… not a phone talker at all!) Never been one to pour out my feelings so when I discovered twitter (and fandoms) I fell right in… never thinking how close I would get to the WCHBO girls and Psych-O’s.

    Nicole and I have gone crazy via networking. At times we have carried on convos in the same room with talking, tweeting, IMing and text messaging (all at the same time) we are a bit crazy 😉


  3. Carol

    Yes, I too am a twitter addict. Lol
    I have a hard time putting down my phone and not checking twitter when I am out at a restaurant with other people, or at at family gathering. (I even tweeted in church!). I have been teased and reprimanded about not being able to to put my phone away in such situations! So I now try very hard to leave the phone in my bag and focus on the people that I am with face to face! It is soooo hard not to check the phone for tweets. Lol!
    I am not as addicted to facebook, however. I don’t check it as often.


  4. Laura Vivoni

    I can totally relate. I am addicted to Facebook as well as Twitter, but I think more Facebook than Twitter and I spend every moment I’m not doing something else on my phone, checking facebook or twitter. Even at work, when I need to go to the bathroom, I take my phone with me so I can check it on my way to the bathroom, on the bathroom, and as I walk back to the office from the bathroom, so no minute is wasted. Sometimes I get embarrassed to think that people are going to think I have stomach problems or something as I stay so long in the bathroom every time, and it’s just checking Twitter. 😛
    But I live an isolated life to begin with, I don’t have many real friends that live close to me, I work mostly alone in the office and don’t get to interact with many people older than 15. So social networking gives me the opportunity to be more social when I wouldn’t be other wise. I get a chance to see my best friends’ from elementary school pregnant pictures, baby pictures of my friends from high school’s children, wedding pictures of friends I haven’t seen since I was in 11th grade. So for me, it does more good than bad.



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