Is Facebook improving or destroying social interaction?

“Every scientific advance is welcomed by those who see a use for it, and usually deplored by those who don’t,” (Roger Scruton 1) is the opening remark by Roger Scruton in his new book, “The uses of pessimism and danger of false hope”.  Facebook is arguably amongst the most celebrated creations of this century. The tagline, “Facebook helps you connect and share with people in your life”, predominantly defines what Facebook facilitates to its 800 million users (Aaron Ross Powell 2). Nevertheless, it is making our lives less social as far as real face to face interaction is concerned. Facebook does deserve credit for much of its success among the masses but its deplorable banes cannot be overlooked. Thus, it is safe to say that, in a fast paced world like ours we are steadily losing the “human touch” (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 11) due to lessening of traditional social interaction practices, obviated by media like Facebook. Not long ago, the daily scenario in a conventional household was somewhat like this: one had regular 9 to 5 PM jobs throughout the week and the weekend was spent with family and friends, and never shall the twain meet. However, now-a-days a notable transition seems to have taken place. Facebook has taken an important place in the lives of many people. Even high school students, who earlier spent their evenings outdoors in playing with their friends or any other form of recreation, now prefer to sit in front of their computer screens, thanks to their obsession with social media. Even though Facebook is a great way to connect with the outside world, it is not beneficial to “our way of life” (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 5). Its constant and rigorous usage is hampering real-world social interaction skills. At such rate one could very well believe that face to face interaction might become as good as obsolete or simply unnecessary. Imagine people saying their wedding vows over the Facebook video chat to avoid the pain of having to travel all the way to the Church. This might sound a little too out of the line or exaggerated at the moment, but this just might be our future. Even now, many business deals are actually happening via video conference, although mainly to reduce the travel expenses. But we very well know that this at times fails to develop trust between the parties and there are limitations with regard to ability to convince each other, as opposed to “across-the-table interaction” (Angelo Antoci, Fabio Sabatini and Mauro Sodini 18). The power to “convince comes out strongly” (Nathan Liu 33), when backed by “emotions” (Nathan Liu 33), which would not be apparent or felt without real interaction. Video conference cannot achieve it at all. The result, a million dollar deal could be lost since the interaction between the two parties wasn’t convincing enough. Why has Facebook become such a “Global Phenomenon”? (Angelo Antoci, Fabio Sabatini and Mauro Sodini 5). This question has lingered in my mind until recently, when I read an article by Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell titled “Narcissism and Social Networking Websites” (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 7), which explains how Facebook helps an individual “weave a perfect world”( Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 7). It is well known that Facebook gives its users complete freedom over self-presentation on Web pages, unlike most other social contexts. In particular, one can use personal Web pages to select attractive photographs of oneself or even write self-descriptions that are self-promoting (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 3). However, for even the noblest amongst us, there are numerous flaws and shortcomings and one’s Facebook profile is devoid of all these. It incessantly glorifies one’s positives. We must realize that as individuals we have both, positives and negatives, which make us who we are in reality. But most of us become so fascinated and self absorbed with our glorified alter personality that the real world becomes a mere conundrum; something to which we can no longer relate. In a study funded by Microsoft Research in Cambridge (Nathan Liu 36) titled “Facebook, age restriction and parental permission ”, it was seen that people (children mainly) who spend more than two hours daily on Facebook have shown signs of low self-esteem and lack in confidence(Nathan Liu 34). They found that these children were more open to interaction through Facebook as opposed to face to face or real interaction (Nathan Liu 1). Also the same children had a tough time making friends in high school and college due to lack of confidence. This speaks volumes by itself of how detrimental Facebook is proving to be for the future of “interpersonal interaction” (Aaron Ross Powell 3) among individuals, especially the young generation. I personally believe that anything is bound to become detrimental if it is used in excess. The same logic applies to Facebook. By limiting its usage, most of its flaws, if not all, could then be overlooked. Out of the 6 billion people on Earth, about “800 million” use Facebook (Nathan Liu 37). So, there has to be something really special about it. Firstly, the user interface is very simple to use making it accessible to people, who have limited knowledge of computers (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 4). Secondly, the idea of having photo albums stored and shared with friends saves the time and effort of sharing photos via other means (Aaron Ross Powell 2). Also the idea of having them being commented and liked by friends is somewhat pleasing. Thirdly, it is the best place to advertise your business and there is little possibility of it going unnoticed. Lastly, to an extent it is making social interaction convenient and less time consuming. The key here is to remember that we are dealing in a world where time constraints are very uptight and one does not find the time to interact with all his relations (Angelo Antoci, Fabio Sabatini and Mauro Sodini 2). This is where Facebook steps in. Facebook makes it possible for us to be in touch with hundreds of friends and relations in a matter of seconds, by positing a simple “hello” message on their walls (Angelo Antoci, Fabio Sabatini and Mauro Sodini 2). If it is used just for these features alone and is not allowed to take place of real regular face-to-face interaction, it would have served its purpose very well. The problem is when it does not remain that and one becomes obsessive about being on Facebook, almost during all the time one is awake. Until measures are taken to limit Facebook’s usage, the future of social interaction seems rather gloomy. The article by Nathan Liu titled “Social Media: Does it make us Less Social?” says that,” Young children are impressionable, and their lives are panned out not just by the way they are nurtured, but often by what they are doing in their spare time” (Nathan Liu 33). So, if your child is on Facebook in his spare time, it is cause of worry. Since the only way to neutralize this growing problem is to start from the base and in this case the children. All parents must realize the importance of spare time activities, such playing outdoor sports or other recreational activities. Time spent by children on Facebook must be monitored closely (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 6). Encourage them to have real social interaction by having friends over home and by enrolling them in clubs (Laura E.Buffardi and W.Keith Campbell 3). In the immortal words of Paulo Coelho:” Be Brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience”, lays the solution to our problems (Paulo Coelho 9) Works Cited

  • Scruton, Roger. The uses of pessimism and the danger of false hope. Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
  • Powell, Aaron Ross. “Roger Scruton Thinks Facebook Will Destroy Humanity”. Web log post. Roger Scruton thinks Facebook Will destroy Humanity. WordPress, 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 11 March. 2012.

<http://www.aaronrosspowell.com/blog&gt;

  • Buffardi, Laura E., and W. Keith Campbell. “Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2008): 1-13. Sage publications. Web. 11 Mar. 2012. <http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/34/10/1303&gt;
  • Antoci, Angelo, Fabio Sabatini, and Mauro Sodini. “See You on Facebook: The Effect of Social Networking on Human Interaction”. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2010): 1-21. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Web. 9 Mar. 2012. <http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/27661/&gt;
  • Liu, Nathan. “Social Media: Does It Make Us Less Social?” Urban Times 17 Dec. 2011: 33-37. Boston Globe. Web. 9 Mar. 2012. <http://www.theurbn.com/2011&gt;

 

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