Antisocial Media : A thought process

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many people the average person “knows” in the digital age. This post is not really so much an opinion as it is a question posed to everyone who makes use of social media, be that blogging, Facebook, Twitter, or the various other platforms out there. Do you think that we are more social or less social than we used to be thanks to technology?

What does the word social really mean? You can find plenty of definitions for it in the dictionary and plenty of different forms. The one we will use here comes from the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. so•cial /adjective:

2. Marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates. <An active social life>

I have met some of my very best friends (and Julian, sweet Englishman that he is) through blogging. I know these people now as “real people” who are much more than just a face on a website. I have spoken with many of them, met with some of them, sent gifts and cards back and forth and come to rely on our friendship. Still, for as many people as I interact with outside the social media outlets, there are thousands that I am “friends” with that I likely wouldn’t know if they sat beside me on a train for a 12 hour trip. I guess what I am trying to say, is that even though I am grateful for the people I have met over the internet, I feel a certain loss when it comes to my good English manners. When I log onto Facebook, I am in my pajamas. I would never answer the door that way if I invited you to come to tea. Here are some other things:

Differences between social media and social gatherings in the real world:

I  shut off my phone, tablet or computer when I get sick of you.

I don’t make any effort to be pretty when texting you.

I don’t serve you any food or have to clean up after you.

My dogs don’t go mad and bark when you visit on my computer.

I can pretend not to be  home that day and you don’t see me peeking out the drapes.

My children don’t have to behave in the background.

Your children didn’t just break something I value.

My pot belly is not showing and I can shove further peanut butter cups into my mouth without judgment.

So what is the problem? This all sounds great!

I find that I am more consciously nervous in social situations where I cannot hide behind my computer.  Does this happen to you too? I have never been comfortable in entire rooms full of people, be they strangers or not, sadly, it is part of my job to do this, thankfully infrequently. Still, I wonder if social media is partially to blame for my lack of outgoing personality now that I have grown so used to the comfort of plug and play friendships.

Also, I feel a loss at not welcoming guests with a specially prepared treat that is their favourite thing, or just seeing the smile and sharing the laughter that goes along with a face-to-not-Facebook visit.

I would love opinions here, if anyone would like to give one.

29 thoughts on “Antisocial Media : A thought process”

  1. I find my face-to-face interactions carry some anxiety, however they tend toward being much more pleasant than all of my online interactions. Sure, the majority of my social media conversations are progressive and positive, however there is always a vitriolic element when online.


      1. Oh, that’s easy. You just stop seeing them. “Sorry, busy today”. As long as they’re not people you are forced to see regularly.


  2. Face to face zaps my strength. But it also gives me energy. I need both. Each in their own way. But I also think that it is very possible to have an online friend who knows me better than someone who has known me for years.


  3. Very well said. I tend to think that people that are college, high school age and new professionals seem not to understand actual face-to-face interactions like they did 20-30 even 10 years ago and I blame not necessarily social media but probably technology in general.


  4. Social media is stripping people of their ability to communicate effectively face to face. We “speak” frequently to our online friends, but it isn’t the same as seeing them and finding out that Charles has a voice like The Nanny.

    My current outside social abilities have not decreased, as I have to continuously deal with people and be friendly(my wife said so) so I make a conscience effort to minimize my “twat waffle” muttering and not flip them off, like I can do while at the computer. 🙂

    Watch and kids though today, and they will sit next to each other and tweet or text back and forth. That drives me bananas. I saw a pair of guys doing that at the mall the other day, so I grabbed their phones and set them on the bench and made them speak to each other. It was incredibly awkward for them, maybe because they didn’t know who the crazy guy ranting about today’s kids that grabbed their phones was. he he he

    My wife made me aplogize. Le sigh.


  5. Great post. Before we use to go out with a small group of friends and chat about anything. and now we stay home and chat with people all over the world. I say we open up more now . we share our strange thoughts that usually don’t. In the meantime we still can go out with friends too so it’s better.


  6. Wow, what a poignant post and such a huge topic. I’m very grateful for so many online friends that I’ve made, and even more-so given my somewhat isolated community, especially in the context of all my creative endeavors. It would be great to know these people in real life, for the kind of reasons that you mention.

    There is simply too much to say on this issue, though it is bound to come up in many books soon, and I’m sure that has already happened. Personally it seems that collectively we are taking a step back and evaluating all these changes that none of us asked for, and we’re putting them in a more natural context. I find that kind reflection very encouraging and without it I do believe humanity takes great risks. Socially we are jut beginning to understand the technology.

    My nervousness in social situations varies as it always did, depending on the crowd, the event and so on. On the plus side, when I’m in an uncomfortable or hostile social situation I’m very pleased to say that I often relax by thinking about some of my online friends who I have more in common with than is often the case in any given situation. I think that’s a good thing.

    Finally, writing those handwritten letters is still something I really enjoy from time to time. They are usually done on special occasions . . . letters to my daughters. I cherish that process, perhaps because it’s simply a time of love.


  7. Great post, Ionia. I too value the online friendships… and many of them have become real and lasting friendships over the years not simply the overused and undervalued epithet of ‘friend’ we see daily on social media.

    Yet you cannot beat eye to eye contact… sharing a smile… or as you say, welcoming a friend with something you have cared enough to prepare for their visit. Time, too… the online interactions can be brief and occupy less than our full attention… where a friend sat across the table occupies us wholly.

    No matter how many people are online you can juggle them if you re busy… but in a room full of people there is only ever the person whose eyes are meeting yours… and that one to one is where my heart lies.


  8. Interesting topic and comments. I believe, that without the social media platforms, we wouldn’t have been able to do two things: 1- Stay in touch with every single person we’ve met face to face during our short lives, and 2- Get to know people from everywhere across the globe, with whom we could meet up and eventually add to point number 1.
    I think everything has its pros and cons, and similarly, when anything is used excessively or abused, it certainly becomes unhealthy. So it’s better to have equal amounts of both, face to face, and face to avatar.


  9. Moderation might be key here. Social media is great for keeping contact with distant friends and relatives and making friends with people in other countries. Yet, it becomes a problem when you use it for those that are within reach. The younger members of my extended family will show up to a gathering and text with friends the entire time. There’s one that I haven’t heard a word out of within 3 gatherings, which makes me think that ‘social media’ is removing the ability to physically interact from some people. Not sure what the reason is, but I get the sense that they simply can’t be bothered. Maybe it’s that if something isn’t posted as a status update then it wasn’t really important. It should be the other way around with verbal information showing a sense of urgency and importance over stating something for the world to see.

    One thing that really bugs me about social media is that people post life events there and anyone who isn’t connected won’t find out. I didn’t know a friend and his wife were expecting until I stumbled onto a Facebook post. It doesn’t cross a person’s mind to even do a mass email these days. Part of the reason is because we might be too ‘social’ on these sites. Like blogging, you end up following so many people that you can’t keep up with all of them. Many get lost in the shuffle and you tend to leave the closer relations to the side because you expect them to interact with you beyond the machine.

    With all that ranting, I have made a lot of friends through social media. Most while I’m curled up in bed not wanting to start the day.


  10. I think it is an absolute reality that we are losing some of our face to face social skills due to social media. In the face of this reality, there are two kinds of people (or three, if you count those who shrug and don’t care either way): those who are intensely grateful that being social doesn’t necessarily mean having to acutally see anyone in person, and those who lament the loss of skills in face to face situations and miss the days when “hang out” meant actually meeting somewhere in meatspace.

    As much as I hate to admit it, I fall into the first group. The problem I have noticed there is that my tolerence for people face to face has dropped dramatically, and I find myself being more easily annoyed with people than I was when I worked a front desk with 8 phone lines ringing all the time and a line of people all needing something from me. And why? Because my life has been made much more convenient by technology. Since I no longer get a lot of practice with dealing with the little annoyances that sometimes come with face to face interactions with other humans, I find myself becoming more annoyed more easily (go figure!). Now, if my phone rings once a day at my current job, I feel the anxiety rising before I even answer the phone, and instant annoyance at the fact that they didn’t just send me an email. And after work, I often say things like, “I dealt with people all day. I don’t want to go to *insert meatspace social event here* and deal with more of them.” Funny, because I took a total of one phone call and hid in my cubicle for most of the day. Hmmm….

    There are people (group two) in my life who feel like social media has replaced being social IRL and went as far as to delete their social media accounts to force phone conversations or face time with friends. Sadly, many of them no longer have a lot of interaction of any kind because even scheduling face to face events often happens over social media. Because I care about these people, I continue to pick up the phone and make the effort to do the face to face thing, but I even struggle with that. Why should I interact the way they want to if the way I want to isn’t good enough for them?

    I’ve even gone as far as to tell folks (who still use their social media accounts) that I’m busy and can’t attend a meatspace event and then stay off of social media during that time so there is no evidence that I wasn’t really busy. But, on the flip side, that really helps me shut down the computer and spend real time with the hubby and the cat, or go read a good book…in the tub…with no one around!


  11. The one thing I miss on social media contact is the give and take one has on direct conversations. All the social interchange needs to be hyper sanitized or hurt feelings will result. I still like face to face, but enjoy meeting new personalities. Excuse me. I gotta go put some clothes on and walk the dogs. Great post.


  12. Ironically, I blogged about this a few months back and a couple years ago wrote a sketch about a new social media format called Face-to-Facebook where, for example, poking actually involved touching someone.

    Recently, I mentioned on Twitter (ironically again) that I had >1000 social media contacts but only about 10 friends. Social media has allowed me to talk to and share with people, like yourself, whom I never would have met any other way. As time passes, I have formed close ties with a few, but even here, it has been difficult to form anything I would consider a true friendship…more of an intellectual companionship.

    When I first started on social media, it was perfect for an Introvert such as me. I was able to assemble my thoughts before uttering them (contrary to the way it may appear at times) and as you mentioned, I could control the rate and intensity of the interactions. True human interactions scared the crap out of me.

    What I have found amusing, however, is that as I have continued to interact online, my self-confidence has risen dramatically, as people seem interested in engaging with me. And this has helped immensely in my interactions with live humans. I now feel more confident that what I have to say or what I have done is important or at least note-worthy.

    I think it is important to find your sweet spot between the two types of socialization, avoiding excess of one or the other lest you become a hermit or social magpie.

    Thanks for posting!


  13. You mentioned companionship. I have what I call superficial friends. These are the people that I see at the once a year at the Winter Solstice party (I hear about them from time to time). I never see them otherwise, yet, Greg has been “friends” with these people more than twenty years. They certainly are not companions. I have about twenty companions online. I consider them closer than many “real life” friends, but might not recognize them if I saw them on the street. Socially, I am much more in touch with them. I have about twenty real life friends whom I interact with regularly and see at least once a week. They are not even connected with me on social media except a few on Facebook. Mostly, Facebook is family and my twenty or so social media friends. I feel that I have a fairly healthy balance…yet, I recently learned that my half sister (whom I have been closer to than my full-blooded sisters) just had a baby. I learned this on FB. I didn’t even know she was pregnant. She, my dad and step mom never said a word. Granted, I live 500 miles away, but one would think? Greg’s best friend from high school, whom he has been “close” friends with all of these years just announced they are moving from Florida to Alabama on FB. Seriously, times are changing.


  14. I thought about this one a bit and came to realize that I really never have had many “personal” friends. Growing up
    and much of my adult life I have been a bit of a loner. I have no childhood friends that I have kept in touch with. I don’t have any high school friends really as I didn’t care for many of them, I really just wanted to get through high school and move on. Since I have been married my wife’s friends have become mine as well, although without her I never would have known them. In reality, most of my friends are the people that I have worked with and although I have not changed jobs frequently, when I have I have never kept in touch with any of them. Now that I have written this it seems kind of sad to me. Anyway, I have to say that some of you that I have met online are better friends to me than the “in person” friends that I had throughout my life. Whether this is good or bad I don’t know, but to me a friend is a friend no matter what form they take, flesh-and-blood or digital. Great post and a really great question…now I think I will just sink into depression


  15. Wonderful post, Ionia.

    I’m on the fence. Some of the best support has come from internet friends – mostly because they’re like-minded people who get it. My in-person people are, for the most part, extroverts who are just now coming to grips with the fact that I have come to terms with my introverted-ness and have stopped trying so hard not to be one.

    I find, in-person friends are a conglomeration of friends we’ve picked up along the way, and for me, internet friends are those who have drifted into my circle simply because of what I post on the blog, which is a truer picture of me than anything else (and makes me certifiable). If ya’ll like me despite the fact that I don’t interact well (introverted on the internets and in person, it seems), and instead talk to an imaginary Druid-character in my head, then you are all gold!!


  16. I usually have a copy of the Timeline card game with me. It’s really fun and only takes about 30 seconds to learn, so you can play it with anybody. It’s impossible to play the game and not get all kinds of conversation going, so it’s fun to break out when you’re waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant or whatever, and you find yourselves staring at each other and realizing you’ve run dry of subjects to discuss. Board/card games are so much fun, and they’re great tools for socializing and exercising the mind!


  17. It’s also really fun to smile when you see people – even strangers! You get some hilarious reactions, though most of them are pleasant. Smile… it confuses people!


  18. Definitely things are more relaxed online versus and personal setting. Interesting points you bring out. I’ve seen manners seem to go the other way, and people saying things I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t say to your face. I also think social media has allowed introverts to finally find their creative niche. Overall, I’ve enjoyed it and the chance it has given me to connect with people I normally wouldn’t. Thought provoking blog!


  19. I’m glad I grew up when technology was not accessible to everyone. I think my generation, Gen X, was that last generation that played outside, able to carry conversations, etc. I work with Millennials in college and it truly is a different world and set of standards.


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