Teresa Ovalle

Welcome to Me

Facebook is making us feel connected – or is it?

on March 30, 2014

When I was a teenager, the one thing my mother could use against me was the telephone. When she was angry with me, she banned me from the telephone; the one thing in my world that connected with friends – one friend at a time. It was a harsh existence back then. Now not only kids, but people from every generation have the opportunity to connect with hundreds of friends at once. Oh, how the world has changed.

Facebook makes us feel connected – or is it? I feel connected to friends I have not spoken to in years because they are only click away. I’m updated on family events, job changes, relationship status changes and a host of other issues because of what they post and because of what I read. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re more connected. When was the last time I picked up the phone to speak to any one of my friends? When was the last time I dropped a birthday card in the mail to let them know I was thinking of them? For most of my friends, it has been a very, very long time.

Sherry Turkle brought up several good points in her video. One of her points that helps describe the scenario above is “alone together”. She says that, “People want to customize their lives. They want to go in and out of all the places they are because the thing that matters most to them is control over where they put their attention.” I think this is very true. I have my phone with me everywhere I go, and I feel out of sync without it. I use my phone in meetings (under the table, of course), I check my phone at dinner, while my husband and I are watching a movie and sometimes while I’m in the middle of a conversation. It’s almost as though I’ve lost the art of communicating with a single person or sharing the experience during a group conversation. Why do I tune out so easily – because my phone is readily available for distraction. We are alone together.

It’s a paradox. I love being connected to others via social media. It’s easy. Perhaps it’s too easy. But at times, I miss hearing my friend’s voices. I miss getting a phone call from someone who wants to let me know they just received a card in the mail from me. I miss hearing the tone in their voice, the imagined facial expressions and other nuances that go on during an in-person, in-focus conversation.

In the How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy article by Maria Konnikova, she says that“…the greater the number of things we have pulling at our attention, the less we are able to meaningfully engage, and the more disconnected we become. I think this is true, but it doesn’t feel like I’m disconnected. I feel the opposite.

Konnikova also says that, “In other words, the world of constant connectivity and media, as embodied by Facebook, is the social network’s worst enemy: in every study that distinguished the two types of Facebook experience – active versus passive – people spent, on average, far more time passively scrolling through newsfeeds than they did actively engaging with content.” Perhaps I’m fortunate that when I passively scroll through my newsfeed, I’m actively looking to engage with what’s being posted. I like to share things, so I am always looking to share with others, to post on other pages I manage and to actively engage in a conversation. To do otherwise, if my opinion, would be like going to a party to watch people rather than to engage with them. That could easily become boring, depressing and cause an ill effect on someone’s psyche, especially if they did this often.

I think Facebook is leading us to a new and more positive society by connecting us all together, but as humans, we must remember that connecting means more than passively watching others from the outside. We must actively engage to ensure we are experiencing the richness that creating, maintaining and actively engaging in our connections can bring to our lives.

With that said, I think people who use Facebook can easily blame Facebook for breaking apart communications and relations as we know it. Facebook is the symptom. People are the cause. There is a richness to life. It’s up to each one of us to learn what that means and how to find it in this new social world in which we live. Without the richness, I think our psyches can be easily broken.

What concerns me is that the younger a person is introduced to social media, the less likely they know and understand the richness of human contact and conversation. Many Facebook users may not understand that they must be active in their pursuit for happiness, not passive. Passivity will grant them very little richness in life.

Proof You’re Substituting Facebook For Real-Life Time With Humans — Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk