Facebook threatens solitude? important reading for the weekend

In the most recent issue of The Atlantic, Stephen Marchie asserts: “A considerable part of Facebook’s appeal stems from its miraculous fusion of distance with intimacy, or the illusion of distance with the illusion of intimacy. Our online communities become engines of self-image, and self-image becomes the engine of community. The real danger with Facebook is not that it allows us to isolate ourselves, but that by mixing our appetite for isolation with our vanity, it threatens to alter the very nature of solitude.”

If you know my thinking at all, you know how much I value solitude  There is a great deal of thoughtful questions and important things for users of social media to contemplate in this article. The problem that I have set up for you is that you will be looking at the article via computer (unless you go buy the issue). This is a problem because you may be interrupted in your reading this article by this and that alert from your social networking buddies.

If you give this a thorough and fair reading you, like I did, may discover you need to rethink the time you spend looking at this screen. The irony of this statement is not lost to me.

So, here’s my suggestion: Close all other tabs, and once you are no longer going to be chatted on Skype, messaged on Fb, direct messaged on Twitter or whatever, CLICK HERE.

Then close the window and think about what you read and then, get in the actual presence (not virtual) of someone and talk about it.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Facebook threatens solitude? important reading for the weekend

  1. Tory

    it is so much easier to discuss it online but I’ll play and find someone to talk about it in real life. (IRL).

    BUT I’ll counter this article with one I read a few days ago in response to this Atlantic one.

    http://theweek.com/article/index/226827/is-facebook-really-making-people-more-lonely

  2. Tory, I disagree with the “counter” article’s basic premise: blame. I do not think Marchie is blaming Fb. It seems to me that he is pointing out, using some very thorough (and, to me, sometimes alarming) sociological data, that our culture (which is NOT just a USA thing) has an issue. In my opinion, Fb is not the problem as much as it (and Twitter, this blog, video games and so forth) are symptoms of a deeper problem of a willingness to isolate ones self. This is (and has been been for a good long time now) in our very neighborhoods. The reason that the word “community” is so greatly overused EVERYWHERE today is that, it seems to me, people are starving for it. I think that, at worst, social media only exacerbates an existing cultural problem and Marchie’s article should cause us to pause and think, as I have said before, about how much time we spend looking at these screens that you and I are looking at right now. Back to the solitude point, these screens can keep us from solitude as well as people. -Tom

    • Tory

      Ah, but can these screens foster true community? As an introvert I find much freedom and expression in writing on blogs and FB and such that I find difficult to do in real life. Yet, I will concede that I’m not sure the online relationships and interaction truly satisfy but either does shallow real life interaction either.

      As for solitude, what is it you really mean there? Because if it is just being alone with one’s thoughts in quiet, I do that often. But my thoughts…….. they are vast and at times and not serene! Plus, is “solitude” just stillness and contemplation or is it other things, like reading a book or writing, etc.

      BTW: I never had an opportunity to find someone to discuss this with IRL.

      • 1. you never “have” opportunities, you have to create them (this is a play on ‘you never find time, you have to make it for what’s important)

        2. your solitude question bears its own post, stay tuned…

      • tory

        Ha; I guess what I meant was there’s no one that would care to discuss this…… I already know what my husband would say and everyone else wouldn’t care.

  3. Tory

    Sorry; but there’s so many interesting articles on FB and interaction and church and all that: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-04-17/church-religion-technology/54367884/1

    and here’s another on the importance of being physically present.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-04-17/church-religion-technology/54367884/1

  4. It took me a few days to really follow your ‘instructions’ and discuss the article non-virtually – mostly because it was a long article and hubby didn’t have the time to read it right away. But the topic is certainly relevant to our lives. What grabbed me the most (and maybe I was looking for something positive?) was that our ‘real life’ relationships tend to be mirrored on FB, they’re not created there or lost there. I also found this very true: ““Facebook can be terrific, if we use it properly,” Cacioppo continues. “It’s like a car. You can drive it to pick up your friends. Or you can drive alone.” But hasn’t the car increased loneliness? If cars created the suburbs, surely they also created isolation. “That’s because of how we use cars,” Cacioppo replies. “How we use these technologies can lead to more integration, rather than more isolation.”

    I think so much depends on how we use all this media, all this screen time. Personally, I can only be grateful to FB for the ease of keeping in touch with dear friends and family scattered all over the world – to somene living overseas, it is invaluable and something I could only dream of just 10 years ago. I avoided blogs for a long time now, but I am finally delving in and ‘following’ people and reading many, and slowly adding to our own. I am encouraged, and challenged, convicted and blessed by these blogs (yours included ;-)). I think that is good use. As is sharing pictures with my family far away. But the key point of the loss of real community is not lost on me – I think it is often much easier, more comfortable to ‘live’ life virtually, but that is not really living. Still, I can’t blame the screens, or the car. It comes down to me, and how I chose to use them. I think we all need reminders to seek out face to face time, sadly, tis the times we live in that we have to strive harder for that.

    • I agree, its not about blame… its a machine (computer) and a business (Fb, Twitter, WordPress, etc.) after all… so it is NOT about blame. It is, however, I believe, a clarion call for us to have less “screen time” and more “face time” (as you have brought this term back from the not-to-distant past). But that requires us to get past our insecurities and step out of our comfort zone (mine is often seeking alone-ness) into a zone of people with whom we may interact and sharpen one another. Though a to and fro in a comment thread kinda does that, it is face to face that it REALLY happens.

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