Facebook is destroying our ability to interact – or is it?

Go ahead and file this under both “Yeah, right” and “Durrrr…really?” A series of random quotes from anonymous scientists hidden under the sensationalist title of “Facebook will destroy your children’s brains” sums up what a lot of the digitally connected already know: People who don’t use social media services don’t have any idea how they really work.

Statements like “What concerns me is the banality of so much that goes out there. Why should someone be interested in what someone else has had for breakfast? My friend told me what they were having for dinner the other day, and I told them to ‘fuck off’ before slamming the phone down” show that there are many out there who don’t understand how these sites work. Sure, a lot of people use Twitter to make unnecessary and ill-conceived statements, but that’s not why we use it. If I wanted to know what people ate for lunch, I’d work in a buffet.

Many of the people I follow do make statements about food, but in the same way you’d talk to a co-worker about that new restaurant you visited, or how you finally grilled the perfect rack of ribs. You share something that other people will find interesting. When I post something to a social media site, I do so because I want to interact with the people I am linked with. If I constantly posted inane comments, I’d have no followers.

So how can we properly explain Social Media to those who have it all wrong?

Find out what their hobbies are. Everyone has something that they’re passionate about – let’s say petrochemicals- and there is a really good chance that other people share that interest. Head on over to Google and find a forum that focuses on petrochemical development. Without a doubt, there’s another forum that has the same interest, but it’s difficult to manage memberships on two different forums, so you follow members of both on Twitter.

Now, you’ve got a constant stream of information that is interesting to you, available anywhere. Sitting on the bus? Read about the new idea for re-processing waste byproducts that @petrochemkim linked. Reply to her about how it’s possible, but fiscally unfeasible. Have intelligent conversations, while learning to be concise.

Google Plus makes this even easier! You can choose to share certain information only with people who would care! It’s like having multiple Twitter accounts. Not everyone cares about your petrochemical obsession, so only those in your “Petro” circle get updates about the latest in dead dinos. Your niece is walking? The Family circle gets a cute video and a witty comment. Letting everyone know you’ve just photographed the last known Zebricorn? Post that baby to “Public” and don’t forget to watermark it.

Artist rendering

What’s that now? You say this is destroying our ability to interact? Zebricorns be damned, you’ve now probably tripled the number of people you successfully interact with on a daily basis. You’re constantly receiving new information, reading alternate views and *gasp* talking to people. Tell me how increasing interaction is destroying our ability to interact.

To be fair, the linked article does end in a manner that equates to the digital eyeroll. “(As you can tell, I’ve lost the will to take these stories seriously anymore. For more serious rebuttals of the whole ‘Facebook melts your brain’ thing, see Ben Goldacre here or my old piece here.)”

Source: The Guardian

2 thoughts on “Facebook is destroying our ability to interact – or is it?”

  1. “Tell me how increasing interaction is destroying our ability to interact.”

    This is a brilliant way to phrase it.

    I can recall an evening, not too long ago, where I had some folks over and got to talking with one of my guests about how the internet affects our relationships. Among the folks who were there, one girl I knew I had met twice in person, but we got to be close friends by talking online a bunch, and even supported each other through some pretty rough times. Another guy there, I had met online originally and would never have hung out with at all if it weren’t for the internet. He’s now a regular part of our group.

    And finally, the guy I was arguing with, I had first spoken to online. We connected via a mutual friend I knew in real life, but I had actually first spoken with this guy online, where we decided he should hang out with us some time.

    Despite this wealth of people in my living room that I had relationships with that were enriched in a very tangible way by the internet, including the guy I was arguing with himself, he still seemed convinced that the internet was a distraction from “real” relationships, and that it has a negative effect on society.

    Some people will simply never understand.

  2. The argument can be made that it’s shifting our ability to interact to something slower, more thoughtful rather than face-to-face interactions. 

    For example, no longer do I necessarily talk with a friend face to face (unless I have a fast enough internet speed and the ability to videochat) on a daily basis. Rather, I’ll post on his wall or send her an email. If it weren’t for my face-to-face interactions with random people, I would assume that the skill of holding a conversation would diminish. 

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