You People Make Me Sick? OR Facebook will be the Death of Us!

Apparently, “Social Networking sites may be bad for your health” says a pyschologist, and apparently an “expert” in the field (of Social Networking?).
Here’s the Article. I wonder if the Dope Counts?
Tis an interesting idea, if a bit sensationalistic… I don’t really buy into it all that much. I think one can have a perfectly healthy social life and still use those sites. Then again, there’s always a few bad seeds that take anything to an extreme, and I could certainly see how doing NOTHING but wasting time on message boards, facebook, and myspace might certainly be detrimental, but still.

Your Thoughts?

This may well be true.

But god, so many other things have so destroyed our “face time” social life that it’s pretty worthless to blame Facebook. Everything from central air (destroyed “porch culture”), suburban shopping malls, attached garages, working lunches, gym memberships, fast food…there are just a bazillion things that encourage us to spend our time alone and erode our social ties. Blaming Facebook is like saying Snicker’s Bars cause the obesity epidemic.

Facebook is useful in getting people together IRL.

For example, the call went out over facebook for skiing last night, and a bunch of folks showed up and had a great time.

I think there are some downsides to modernized life from a social perspective (the first that comes to mind is the fact that a lot of times you don’t know your neighbors anymore so you can’t ask one another for help when you need it) but I don’t think it’s a negative thing or “erodes social ties” overall when modern technology keeps you from being forced to hang out with people you have nothing in common with, just to avoid dying of heatstroke in your house or whatever. (What sort of social activity was eroded by going to the gym, anyway?) Mostly, what modernization does is show that most people only have a few real friends who live in the immediate area. If the people who used to drop by and talk when you were sitting on the porch because it was too hot to sit inside don’t ever come by now that you have an air conditioner, then they were never your friends to begin with, and it’s better that you know that instead of thinking they were. On the other hand, it shows that you can have dozens of actual meaningful friendships if you can reach beyond the local area to find people online or to reconnect with people who have moved away. I would have almost no friends if it wasn’t for the internet, and social networking sites in part.

Well, you have your opinion and I have mine. I’m all for technology. I’m here, aren’t I?

But I do strongly believe that recent urban planning trends have had a devastating effect on our health and sanity and plays a role in rising rates of obesity and depression. I believe we receive mental benefits from having “face time” with strangers and neighbors as well as with family and close friends. It helps us feel like part of a community, and exposes us to people of different ages, etc who we might otherwise not spend time with. I do think we lose something when we choose to live so entirely in our comfort zone.

I have to agree with Even Sven on that last point- the Dope and other sites have helped me easily step out of my comfort zone and learn about new people and cultures- something that would be quite difficult were I to just go around town looking for them (just look at all the “Ask the ____” threads, finding all those people in real life and then asking them all those questions would be quite tricky.

The key I think though is balance. I use facebook here and there, but I don’t really use it to find friends and get together- so it’s not really a site where it leads to an actual physical activity, which I suppose is where the author gets the idea of it decreases face to face time. However, it does allow me to keep in touch with friends that are several states or even countries away from me, and still get to see their pictures and going on in their daily lives.

So it expands our world at the very same time that it keeps us within the comfort of our home. Plus, if you’re not a facebook whore, you’ve got to friend the people you KNOW- and you’ve got to know them somehow (hopefully in real life), if you just go around befriending random people or people you’ve met online, then yeah, perhaps you’re not using it for the most constructive of purposes. But I think it’s a trade off and one, that I can at least say I’m fine for navigating.

Listen, I pour my heart out on this board all the time, but last night, I looked into someone’s eyes while he held my hand and I told him I was going through a hard time. My one sentence uttered to this one person did more to heal me than the entire cumulative measure of my time on this board. I find the Straight Dope very valuable and don’t intend to downplay that value, but when you’ve got an actual human being in front of you it makes a world of difference. For some, social networking sites are their replacement for human interaction, and this is largely how I have been utilizing this board.

Though the article seems to be based on pure speculation, his opinion is not an unreasonable one.

I tend to think that it all depends on the person. Everyone here so far seems to assume that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, so to speak. Things are rarely so simple.

For some more socially adept people, Facebook and the like are cheap imitations of “normal” socializing which don’t meet all of their needs; others are more reclusive and take what they can get, and the world WITH online social networking is a vast improvement to one without. Still others, I suspect, do fine IRL but prefer ASPECTS of online social networking.

For me those aspects work out like this: all my best and oldest friends live scattered around the planet, so it’s a great way for us to stay in touch, share pictures and links, message, etc. Like email on roids. My newer friends in the geographic area are Facebook friends, but I rarely use it for anything with them. Sharing pictures, I suppose.

So I think it depends on the person and their particular situation.

Upon re-rereading my post, I misrepresent my thoughts slightly; I am not trying to argue that it is wholly a positive force- One has to concede there probably is a not insignificantly small group of people who suffer socially from online networking in that the quality of socializing in their life has gone down with its presence.