reading updates here and there. I played the occasional Farm Town game and created some groups for my businesses. I added people for networking, those with a common interest, clients, and those I actually knew. I’ve always been a social butterfly so this was another way of meeting new people and learning more about my current friends. Or so I thought.
Something changed in my life. Over the years something was become glaringly apparent. It wasn’t adding up and I was really bothered by it. The people who live in my same city, the same people I was friends with on Facebook never really talked to me in real life. I invite people to events. They’re busy or don’t respond. I would say hi on Sunday or whenever I saw some of them. That was it. They lived their lives and I lived mine feeling completely alone at times. How can I have these “friends” on social networks but few REAL friends in REAL life?
I know I’m not alone in this. According to an article on CNN.com “new research suggests that anyone looking to form new and genuinely close friendships via online social networks is going to be disappointed.
An ongoing UK study, conducted by Dr. Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University, suggests that real life meetings are still needed to foster genuine "real" relationships which are based on trust.
Research by Dr. Reader, who has been studying over 200 networking site users, shows that they still have only around five close friends, and that these are almost always forged through face-to-face meetings.
He told the British Association Festival of Science held in York this week that social networking sites allow people to broaden their list of nodding acquaintances simply because keeping in touch with people online is easy.
"What social network sites can do," Reader said, "is decrease the cost of maintaining and forming these social networks because we can post information to multiple people."
"But to develop a real friendship," he said, "we need to see that the other person is trustworthy. We need to be absolutely sure that a person is really going to invest in us and is really going to be there for us when we need them."
"People see face-to-face contact as being absolutely imperative in forming close friendships."
I’ve always been against role playing as my church has always strongly counseled against it. Role playing games are of the norm today, mostly online with the World of War Craft, etc. I feel like Facebook is another way of playing a role. Many people pretend their life is perfect or a vision of what they would like it to be or we have the opposite of people who only post their victim story making their drama public and more extreme.
I thought in reading what people were up to and sharing tips online via these social networking mediums was going to be yet another way of strengthening current friendship and forging new ones. According to Dr. Reader, "What we need is to be absolutely sure that a person is really going to be there for us. It's very easy to be deceptive on the Internet. What we need are cues that are indicative of investment."
“Based on responses from 3,500 companies, Peninsula estimates that 233 million hours are lost every month by employees "wasting time" on the Internet.” That is just employees. What about people spending leisure hours on the internet not being monitored by superiors or the time clock? Social Media and the internet are distracting too many people from the things that are more important in life. I often invite friends to join me in a book club at my house and the usual response is that they don’t have enough time. If we invest only ten minutes a day in reading a real book we can finish it in 1-2 weeks depending on the size. Real books have real substance and you can enrich it by having interaction with real friends at your home.
I find that in not getting enough “likes” or “comments” leaves many people disappointed in themselves because they aren’t getting the feedback they would from friends had you been in a real life social situation.
I realize Facebook has its perks. You can read interesting quotes, learn new tidbits, and find out where your military friend just moved. You can also tell all of your friends and relatives at once announcements that are easier to make in “bulk”. You can meet good acquaintances that can share life changing information. However, two questions are: 1. is it worth investing so many hours and days of your life? And 2. Is it really paying off in terms of fulfilling friendships and by extension a richer and more meaningful life? Only you can truly answer that question honestly.
It’s time for me and others who agree to slow down the Facebook time trying to maintain unfulfilling, shallow, or fleeting friendships. Or it’s simply wasting too much time reading minute details about other people’s lives. I say it’s time to pick up the phone and get together in real life and support each other by investing real time and attention into another person who we can call “friend” and really mean it.
Photograph: Victor Bezrukov