Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Stephen Marche explores a few articles, expert opinion and even quotes a scientist in his quest to answer this question. The article has an overall negative tone. Perhaps Facebook is the most well known and widely used social media site but probably not the culprit. If being lonely is something we can control, then we have to read this and reflect. That is of course, depending on your definition of lonely and what it means. Marche points to Americas historical romance with the concept of loneliness, as well as todays common interpretation several times throughout the article.
In this frantic wonderfully all consuming internet world, there are many lonely people. The former Playboy playmate and actress, Yvette Vickers was discovered mummified in her home. The suggestion that her only contact with the outside world for some time before she died was social media, is a sad comment. Really, she was an old woman with no living relations or close friends. It seemed she used the computer to stay in touch. This is a horrifying story but probably not so rare. As Steven March wrote, “On whatever scale you care to judge Facebook-as a company, as a culture, as a country-it is vast beyond imagination.” (2)
Included in this article are many quotes from experts. In Australia, where evidently “close to half the population is active on Facebook” (5), they conducted a study and found that “-the sense of not feeling bonded with family” was “significantly higher” than “levels of “social loneliness”.” (5) The researchers cited several reasons why this may have nothing to do with social media…..more to do with the people using it. Another researcher, Moira Burke conducted a study here and came to the conclusion, “on Facebook, as everywhere else, correlation is not causation”.(6)
People use the internet for so many things these days. It is a giant part of our complex lives and perhaps makes us look ahead, as opposed to staying in the present. Everyone, it seems wants to explore this world but being consumed can be lonely. Some people feel that humans seek independence and this is a perfect way to find it.
The worlds leading expert on loneliness, John Cacioppo(7) is committed to a different idea. He conclusion is “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” and “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.” He also comments on what we interpret as the expectations of participating online, on Facebook in particular. As a scientist he clearly has based his experiments on data involving physical studies as well. Loneliness can affect all aspects of our health.
After reading this article, I realized that I am not too involved with this type of communication. People have to learn about themselves first and foremost. It is this knowledge that is important. You take your whole self wherever you go. Before any of us spend our precious time in front of these gadgets, we should be grounded. It seems that the idea of developing oneself without the internet is foreign. Personally, the idea of communicating anything really important or intimate without a face-to-face seems ridiculous. Its not about how many contacts you have….it is about the quality of them. Its about the quality of your life. If you fight for this, the fear of loneliness will be that much less.
This entry was posted in reading response on February 10, 2014. Edit

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