The Social in Social Networking

Have you been to the movies lately? In the past few years, you might have chanced upon a few films that dealt with people using avatars to socialize with the environment or with other people. Technology has not advanced to the point of controlling avatars as in Avatar, surrogates in Surrogates, or even virtual-reality selves as in the Matrix. Still, in some ways, this can be approximated by how we deal with each other in the virtual world through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

In some ways, it might be a necessity. In some ways, it can be a life choice.

Sometimes one might ask: are you your social network profile?

Have you lost enough touch with reality that you prefer to interact with other people online? Or, has the social network been ingrained into your life that whatever happens to events in the virtual world deeply affect what happens with your actual life?

The great thing with social networks is that they have let us interact with other people in ways previously not possible. We have found long lost friends. We have reunited classmates and cliques. We have established identities and communities online.

What happens to the individual, though? In social networking ,you are shielded behind the safety of your computer. You might be bolder at doing something you haven’t imagined doing in real life. It’s easy to do something when the repercussions might not necessarily be felt in real life. However, in some cases, what you do in the virtual world extends into real life? Do you still have a firm grasp of what is real?

I sometimes think that social networks are a misnomer. Yes, they are networks, in that they let users connect to other users online. However, as for being social, that might be where the trouble lies. It’s social inasmuch as you can connect with friends. But it sometimes draws you away from actually connecting with your friends, whether online or offline. For many people, social networking is about having the most number of followers or friends, or having the most “likes” or “favorites” for a certain post. The social interaction is no longer there. It’s sometimes a mindless maze of shout-outs and me-toos.

Of course the best way to socialize is to actually be with people, physically. I worry that people today are no longer aware of the value of interacting with people face-to-face. I must admit that I’m a bit lacking in that department, perhaps not having enough self-confidence to go out to the world and meet people. But I do put a premium on the value of being able to see someone in a face-to-face encounter. Or, at the very least, there’s value in someone actually reaching out and sending a nice email, or a text or an IM saying hello.

Is there still value in human interaction? Or are we on our way to becoming simply avatars of ourselves?

Featured image credit: Shutterstock

One thought on “The Social in Social Networking

  1. Most of the Social Networking I see going on at places like Facebook or Myspace involves only a few types of socialization. A.) Playing Games – The popularity of Zynga games is phenomenal, but is it really social interaction? B.) Social Apps – applications that send cutesy hugs, kisses, angels, cards, etc…is that really a personal interaction? C.) One line comments on how ones day is going…sure it’s nice to know that your car broke down, the dog bit you, or the cat ate the bird…but it’s not really deep social interaction. I read somewhere that now lawyers are referring to Facebook posts to sort out prospective jurors…I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that a little disturbing, considering I can represent myself in any fictitious way I like on a social network.

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