Meeting New Tweeple

I just watched an iPad commercial in which, by spotlighting different apps, Apple tries to prove that the gadget is delicious, current, playful, literary and so much more. Towards the middle of the commercial they show the Twitter app, because, they say, the iPad is also friendly.

I’ve become a big Twitter fan lately. (You can follow me here!) It feels more fleeting than Facebook, so I’m willing to post random thoughts as they come up. I find comfort in the fact that they’ll get shoved to the bottom of your feed before they become totally irrelevant. Also, Twitter’s a great source of fascinating links, people have no choice but to be concise, and, best of all, I love how easy it is to engage with others. Perfect strangers and I can exchange TV-on-DVD recommendations. Heaven.

But, ultimately, that’s what they are: strangers.

I get nervous when I see people, or companies, referring to using sites like Facebook or Twitter as being “friendly.” Sure, I’ve met some great people through blogging and meetups and other online communities. Social networking can be a fantastic way to add new people to your life. But updating an online status from the couch in your empty living room is not the same as being “friendly.” Is it?

From what I can tell, the biggest danger of these sites is people taking them as a replacement for face-to-face interaction rather than a supplement. (For the record, I have nothing against Twitter, or iPads. I use, and love, them both.) A social psychologist once told me that the loneliest people are often the ones with the most Facebook friends, because they spend all day behind a computer screen and no time connecting in the flesh. And according to current research, online friendships don’t have the same positive health and longevity effects that the in-person kind do.

We’ve got a careful balance to maintain. Going online can be ideal for keeping up with long-distance pals and checking in on old friends. But when you get so caught up in the virtual world that you forget to live in the real one, then we’ve got trouble. And delusion.

What do you think? Is Tweeting “friendly?” Is there a danger of people relying too much on social networks and losing the benefits of real live friendship? Or are the Facebooks of the world just another way to increase our social engagement?

15 Comments

Filed under 21st Century Friendships

15 responses to “Meeting New Tweeple

  1. Natalie

    I personally enjoy social contact. But all the technology lets you keep up with people who live far away, which is cheaper than plane tickets. Still, visiting family and friends is much better in person.🙂

  2. Ana

    I agree with you that for most, it should be a SUPPLEMENT, not the sole source of social activity (unless you are on a deserted island or some more plausible equivalent of that scenario!)
    I love being able to keep in touch with long-distance family and friends and to be able to update everyone simultaneously without having to individually call, email, etc… I’ve also found support from unexpected people over the internet…from facebook and even blogs…from people with similar experiences and problems—something you may not find in your small circle of face-to-face friends if the experiences and problems are more rare. I know people find great support from online communities for people with various diseases, life situations, disabilities, etc… so I am not going to knock techno-friendship completely.
    But, there is something unique, comforting, & essential about face to face time, the give and take and even awkward pauses in a real-life conversation, hugs & smiles and gestures that you can’t get on facebook or twitter.

  3. I think Facebook and Twitter are tools, and like all tools they can be misused. I love them to make connections and keep up with real-life friends faraway, but for me they cannot replace in-person interaction. If I don’t make an effort to get out and be with real people in a new place (I’ve moved to two since I’ve been on FB), they start to make me feel more isolated.

  4. san

    Blogs and Twitter and Facebook is really nice and all to keep up with people that live far away… and even to make new (mostly long distance) friends. It can never replace face-to-face interaction though.

  5. I don’t think the social networking sites are going to make the antisocial any more so simply because of their existence any more than having cigarettes for sale forces people to smoke. I think people are what they are and unless they opt to change, they will use the resources available to support their “habits”. And people are very creative at finding resources and excuses to support their habits. If Twitter and FB weren’t around, they’d find other resources, for sure.

    Tweeting and friending can be great enhancements to one’s circle of acquaintances and they allow us to connect with others whom we otherwise wouldn’t meet. But I think most self-aware people realize that it’s no substitute for the real deal.

  6. Facebook is a great way for me to keep up with my friends who have moved away. But I do think that, these days, people sometimes rely on Facebook/Twitter over personal emails and actual conversation. It’s a little weird when I want to talk something over with a friend and she reminds me “yeah, I know, I saw that on your Facebook.”

    Honestly, my biggest issue with social media vs. actual social interaction is when I’m out with friends and someone’s constantly checking their Facebook or updating their Twitter on their phone! I always want to say “hello, we’re RIGHT HERE!” Granted, I’m the last person in the universe whose cell phone only makes and receives calls, but I find that annoying and a little rude!

    • I couldn’t agree more! When someone else is checking their phone and facebooking while we’re hanging out, I always just follow suit because I don’t know what else to do with myself. But I never can understand when I’m with someone and they’d rather talk to the internet via their phone then talk to a real live human…

  7. Hmm…sure, I think social media shouldn’t take the place of real life friends (and by real life friends, I mean ones you can go to coffee with), but I think Twitter and Facebook (but more Twitter) provides a way to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise connect with. I’ve built up this really awesome Twitter community that basically talks about books ALL THE TIME. Which is what I’d prefer to do in real life, but my friends would quickly tire of.

    As for Facebook, Facebook provides a way to keep in touch with friends who don’t live nearby. I never thought I’d say this, but I hate talking on the phone. So I avoid those phone calls that would allow me to keep up with friends who live far away. Facebook makes it possible for me to avoid the phone but still keep up with friends. That’s a win.

    I guess the other thing about Facebook, though, is that I really only prefer it for good friends. I don’t want to keep up with everyone and their brother (and by that I mean, people I only know casually online).

    All that to say, while I love social media, nothing beats a BFF IRL.

  8. With everything in life, you need balance. As long as you use FB and Twitter to supplement your social interactions, I don’t see the harm. However, if you are spending more time with technology rather than real people – Houston, there is a problem.

    Conversations with friends over coffee and dinner can’t be replaced by the virtual world.

  9. Rachel

    I work at a university in Texas, and the school newspaper here just published results of a study (done by psychology profs. on campus) of how having more facebook friends and wall posts correlated to higher retention of second-year students. It’s brief, but it relates, so I thought I’d share:
    http://www.acuoptimist.com/2010/09/facebook-study-shows-retention-trends/

    Thanks!

  10. Rachael,

    This is a good point and I think some people have actually started living in a virtual world where they are fine with having online friends replace face-to-face encounters. Social networking makes it possible to meet people and do business all over the world but at least for me, it sure doesn’t replace in-person time with friends.

  11. I used to use Twitter a lot more because it was all the rage. I’ve slowed down and have decided to focus on creating excellent blog content.

    I still believe that the point of social media is not to get more infinite information but to be able to connect with people face to face that we would have not found otherwise.

    We can not replace hundreds of thousands of years of face to face interaction with the sudden surge of social media.

    We talk about how the world is divded by the poor and rich. The new class of people that will emerge will be those with the social skills necessary to survive and thrive and those that will wander off. Social media only enhances what people already are. If they are social in life, they will have more friends on Facebook that are aquaintances with. While those that are not social will use it as an escape fantasy.

    The fact that Facebook is the number checked site in the world now, kind of scares me. I want my children to be social people with a social media education. Not social media people that learn to be social later on in life.

  12. I have actually found in some circumstances that social media networks like FB and Twitter have opened doors for me to reconnect or connect with friends and/or biz contacts in person. I can see how they could be catalysts for shut-in’s if taken to the extreme. But I find them useful tools for reaching out to all my peeps at once to let them know I am still alive and kicking.🙂

  13. Michele

    I agree Facebook is great for finding and keeping in touch with long lost friends but it shouldn’t replace actual interaction with friends. I have kinda boycotted it because I am tired of reading people’s big news on facebook, I feel like a stalker. I’d rather hear it from them directly.

  14. Pingback: When Your Only Communication is Online | MWF Seeking BFF

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