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Are Social Networks Causing Social Division ?

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Email, Texting, Facebook, Twitter and Blogs : Time vampire digital communications that rob people of real life interaction.... Is there a hidden cost to all of this tweeting and bookfacing? ... click "read more" if you want to explore this idea....

When I was a child, my best friend and I would frequently discuss how people become "lame" when they are older. The distillation of our discussions follows along the following lines.....

"People start career jobs, take on mortgages, get married, have children : they become so self absorbed into their own life that many stop interacting with others and making friends." 

"Many people slave away almost all of their waking time for a corporate entity that cares nothing for them: while the corporation has all of the same legal rights as its employees....."

"Of the little time they do have left after work, eating, sleeping, bathing, and interacting with their significant other absorbs the vast remainder of their discretionary time."

"2 weeks of paid vacation: when people finally do have a chance to take a break, what do they end up doing with the time?" 

When I brought these ideas up to one of my thoughtful philosophical friends in middle school, he replied "What about all of the weekends?" Great Point~ 

Lets talk about those weekends.... what are people doing with their time on the weekends...? Let us imagine living without a telephone, internet or computer of any kind for a year or more.... the only way we can interact with others is on foot, in first person.... how would this change our experience of life? 
I get the sense that digital social networks and the internet have had a mixed impact on the increasing isolation people experience as they enter deeper into adulthood. 

How many hours per week do you spend glued to a screen of some kind? TV / Email / Games / Movies ? How many hours per week do you spend interacting with your faith, family and friendships in real life away from the digital screens of phones, computers and televisions? 

I am not bashing Facebook or Twitter or Google or TV or the Internet : I only only saying that people might want to consider more carefully how they are allocating the limited precious discretionary time they have in a day. 

Frequently, when Meg and I are out in public, we observe people in groups all fixated on their phones: texting and emailing and browsing.... We recently went to a Thai restaurant, and passively observed a mother and daughter : for over an hour they sat, at a table, over dinner, just the two of them; few words were exchanged, they played with their smartphones almost the whole time.... 

Has anyone every heard the expression "put your phone down?"  Do we really need to be connected to a network all of the time? Does that constant network access really add value/ joy/ love/ meaning/ enjoyment/ fun to our lives? Perhaps the answer is yes.... or no... or both. 

I certainly find sharing family photos with my friends and family via face book intensely satisfying. Its great to be able to share personal media or ideas with your friends and family : even when they are physically separated by large distances. 

The power of social networks to connect massive groups of people for grass roots political campaigns like the "pink slime" rebellion, clearly makes a case for the positive power of social networks. The obsessive over-use of the internet and social networks clearly makes a case for the negative impacts digital communications are having on the social fabric of our faith, family and friendships. 

First person interactions offer dynamics that social networks cannot synthetically re-create. While social networks are good for bridging connections between friends and family that are distant, great for sharing photos, great for messaging, ect; for all of the good things that social networks have done, I often wonder if they, and if the internet in general, are responsible for causing increased isolationism and introversion in real life..... 

Is a first person conversation the same as a Facebook thread discussion? 

Is a text message the same as a phone call? 

Is a personal email the same as a personal printed letter? 

Can you really spend quality time with someone online? 

So much has been said about the "digital divide" which separates the "have's" and "have not's" of computer hardware... but the real subtle irony exists within the "divide" created by digital communications.


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