Is Social Networking IMPERSONAL?

Is social networking impersonal?
Critics often complain that we are becoming a society of recluses, hidden behind computer screens, fearful of human interaction.

I absolutely and strongly disagree.

There’s no question that I spend a lot of time at the computer. In fact, I’m beginning to believe the laptop is an extension of me. Borrowing Karl Malden’s words, I’d say I "don’t leave home without it.”

I’m addicted to the computer; I have withdrawal symptoms if I have to do without it.
I use Twitter, Facebook and Blogspot, currently updating three public blogs and one private blog.

Do I fear human interaction? Oh, no. I love human interaction.

Social networks have allowed me to find old friends, people with whom I had lost contact. Social networks have allowed me to make new friends, some of whom I’ve never met face to face but who seem just as close and familiar as some others. Social networks have allowed me to keep up with what friends and family members are doing, even those things I'd rather not know.

Sitting at a computer doesn't inhibit conversation any more than reading book, working a crossword or perhaps even being engrossed in a TV program.

Many of us are more personal with our writing than we are with our speaking. Perhaps we get to know more about others and share more of ourselves this way.

When Mom sends an e-mail to all of the family members, we know exactly what she's thinking! She writes the same way she talks.

When “The Dawg” got sick and was hospitalized several times, I kept a blog about him to let family and friends keep up with his condition. It was so much easier than calling 20 to 50 people, especially since I was usually in the hospital room and he was often sleeping or watching TV. We posted pictures of hospital staffers and got to know them much better by doing so.

His last days were described on the blog and even his death.
I shared my heartache at losing my husband and soul mate but also shared his desire not to linger and suffer. These were bittersweet postings, of course.

At the same time, I heard from hundreds of people, first wishing him well, offering prayers and then expressing condolences. Yes, there were some “traditional” cards that came through the mail, but there were many more expressions of sympathy on his blog and on mine, on Facebook, on Twitter and through e-mail.

These were no less personal than hand-written cards. What’s more, they were instantaneous and helped with the grieving process, just as writing helped me with the grieving process. I wouldn’t trade those communications for anything. I felt caring and concern from the senders.

When my dad died of cancer just over 8 years ago, I didn’t have a blog; there was no Twitter or Facebook, but there was e-mail. I notified loads of people about his death by e-mail and received many sympathy messages by e-mail.

One good thing about the e-mail communications was that I was able to print copies of the messages for each family member. That’s something I couldn’t do with traditional cards and phone calls.

In some ways, social networking has advantages and may even be preferable.

Etiquette experts may frown on the use of a computer for anything connected with emotions. I don’t, but, of course, as those who know me will attest, I’m certainly no etiquette expert!
Social networks are convenient. No trips to the post office. No worrying about calling someone who may be sleeping or busy. Messages are sent at the sender’s convenience and read at the recipient’s convenience.

One person sent an e-mail expressing sympathy when Carroll died but also apologized for using e-mail, saying she couldn’t find a current mailing address. I assured her this was fine. Her message was the same, regardless of the format. I felt no less comforted by words that were typed rather than hand-written.

What do you think? Do you offer sympathy, greetings, congratulations, best wishes and so forth by way of computer?
Is this a way to show joy at someone's good news and celebration? Is this kind of communication less personal?
Is it okay? Is it acceptable? Or, are we really humans fearful of “personal” communications and interaction?


Sandee said...

I do both, but I'll admit I send a lot via the computer. I don't thing the computer makes things impersonal. I've made lots of friends blogging and some I've met. Some more than once. So I find it a great way to communicate. Beats the heck out of sitting in front of the idiot box (television). That's my two cents.

Have a terrific day. :)

Carma Sez said...

I love to communicate via email vs. telephone - any day!! I think I express myself better in writing and it is no less personal...I think that friends we meet via our blogs can brighten each other's days just as much as IRL friends...

The Retired One said...

I do both too...but find myself doing more and more electronically...for two reasons...I can get the message to the person faster and when my emotions are first there too. I don't edit my response...it comes straight from my heart to the keyboard...no censuring.
I so admire your brave response to your husband's death. I think of you and hope you are doing alright. I know you must have private moments of grief, which is to be expected and it is needed.

AmyZ1974 said...

Sherry, I have ALWAYS been more comfortable expressing my feelings in writing rather than talking about them and the internet gives me a lot of outlets for doing so.

Syd said...

We do both--cards, food, and email. I still like writing letters...old fashioned I guess.

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