During the last week, I’ve had a number of different topics processing in my mind for blog posts. I’ve tried to decide which ideas to work on first. But I’ve decided for now to tackle the topic of relationships and how they have been affected by the internet. Namely, social networks. I’ve touched on this topic before. but I’ve decided to delve a little deeper and attempt to expose some true flaws in the way we relate to one another. So lets begin…
There is a huge shift going on in our culture and the way we choose to interact with one other as a whole. I would suggest that at the center of this shift we might find the heart of Social Networking to be one of the root causes for such a shift of this magnitude. We are losing touch with what it means to have a meaningful conversation, and replacing it with status updates, tweets, instagram pictures, comments, “likes”, check-ins, blogs, and texts. Another 5-10 years on this trajectory and who’s to say we won’t forget what a real conversation means all together? When is it all too much?
On October 23rd, Facebook released its third quarter earnings for 2012, which had some interesting statistics. Facebook crossed a monumental mark with 1.01 billion monthly active users (MAU) as of September 30th, 2012. Daily active users (DAU) were at 584 million on average for September 2012. But the most interesting statistic was for the mobile MAU which garnered 604 million as of September 30th, 2012, an increase of 61% year-over-year.
Here’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has to say about the earnings release:
“As proud as I am that a billion people use Facebook each month, I’m also really happy that over 600 million people now share and connect on Facebook every month using mobile devices. People who use our mobile products are more engaged, and we believe we can increase engagement even further as we continue to introduce new products and improve our platform. At the same time, we are deeply integrating monetization into our product teams in order to build a stronger, more valuable company.”
So what do we do with this information? Well, I just wanted us to have an idea of where society is going. With the release of Facebook’s earnings, they revealed not just successful growth, but so much growth that they exceeded Wall Street’s high expectations. Despite their compromising monetization of the site, which has brought the integrity of user privacy into question on more than one occasion, the more than obvious addictive qualities of the site, as well as the slowly growing bad reputation of illegal solicitations to minors from strangers, unhealthy or unwanted connections, and countless incidents of identity theft, Facebook continues to grow at a rapid rate. In fact, the company added 10 million new users from September 14th through September 30th. Clearly, we aren’t going to let anything get in the way of our connections to the world.
With all of these facts, statistics, and graphs floating around, I beg to ask the question “What happened to living in the moment?” Lets look at a different set of statistics…
- One survey revealed that 24% of respondents admitted to missing out on enjoying special moments in their lives, due to being too busy attempting to document their experiences for online sharing.
- Worldwide, Facebook users spend 10.5 billion minutes each day surfing the site — not including mobile use, according to the company’s IPO filing. Collectively, that’s nearly 20 years per day that people spend living online rather than offline.
- A survey by the social site Badoo found that 39% of Americans spend more time socializing online than in person
- 20% of respondents from the same survey actually prefer socializing online and/or through text messaging than face-to-face interaction of any kind.
(See graph below for complete view of these stats)
Shouldn’t we be worried about this reality? Maybe this is why such a growing number of teenagers struggle with depression, due to feeling isolation in their lives. Or why 18-25 year olds have become people that are flakey, inconsistent, insensitive, self-absorbed people who have forgotten what it means to have friends and real life experiences with real life people. I, for one, am worried.
People buy phones, not for calling people, but for having access to their social networks at all times. Websites like Facebook and Twitter now come integrated into the software of most new smart phones. People would rather text message you than call you. Could this be why relationships have become such a fickle part of our lives? Maybe this is the longing we feel deep down. Its like a vitamin we are being deprived of. We NEED connection. We keep running to these false replications of community, when what we really need is ACTUAL community with one another. Facebook won’t help me when a family member dies. Twitter won’t help me when I need to move to a new place. Instagram isn’t going to sit down to dinner with me. (but you can be sure I’ll take a picture of my meal to share with strangers!)
We are trading the real thing for poor imitations. We do this in every area of our lives every day, but especially with relationships. We have to get back to living life the way it was meant to be lived: Face to face. For us to experience life, we have to learn how to experience again. So when is too much? When you can’t go a day without it. I think there are great benefits to social networking, even great potential for what is yet to come. I mean, here I am, blogging about how things like blogging are bad. Obviously I’m not TRYING to be hypocritical. I think there is much to be had from social networking that can enhance the connections we make in life. On the flip side, I think we are a society that has a weakness for addictions and selfishness, both of which social networks can feed into. We should be wary of such things, and learn how to have a conversation again. So often, I wish the people in my life that might call themselves my friends would just call me up sometime to see how I’m doing, or ask if I want to grab coffee. The irony of it all is I would call them myself, but the very thought of doing so feels awkward now. Maybe everyone else feels the same way.
I don’t often end my blog posts with a call to action, but in light of all we have learned..I propose that once you have finished reading this, you call someone just to say hi. Lets break this pattern in our lives, one step at a time. If you want to talk to me, just call me. Hell, I’ll even settle for email. Its a start, right? Don’t ask for someone’s Facebook! Ask them to go get coffee! I’ve recently discovered that I love to hear people’s story. I love to know where people come from, where they are, and where they are going, or at least where they want to go. People will tell you so much more than a Facebook profile will ever tell you. Despite what you may have heard, you in fact cannot learn everything there is to know about someone on their Facebook profile. So go out with people! Experience life together again! Lets reclaim what was bought for us at a high price: Our freedom.