The advent of my online social life, predictably, began with facebook. It was just over a year and a half ago, and I was halfway through the first semester of my first year at university. I had more or less settled in, I had met a whole load of new and wonderful people, and I wanted to be able to keep in touch with some of them. People kept talking about facebook. My new flatmates talked about it frequently: 'oh, so-and-so just said on facebook that they just did such-and-such', or 'have you seen so-and-so's relationship status?'
Naturally, I was curious. It seemed this was the answer I had been looking for. I could keep in touch with people who I had met but didn't necessarily know very well, and find friends who I had long since lost touch with, but wanted to find out how they were getting on. I went through a phase of cautious fasination with this, adding people and posting occasionally, trying to make my posts meaningful in some way, yet all the time the temptation was there just to post the first thing that came into my head, and I tried, for the larger part, to restrain it. I won't say too much about it. Although facebook provided an interesting insight into the day to day lives of my 'friends', I grew a sudden aversion for it and it's shallowness, and only a few months in, I made up my mind that I would delete it. It was a waste of my time, I told myself. All people ever post is mindless rubbish, I thought, and I really can't be bothered with this. I have much better things to do with my life. Having made it clear via a status that I would be off, I asked people to contact me if they wanted to keep in touch. I think about two people actually did...
So, my facebook remains, and since then it has just been a place for communication with people I have no other way to communicate with, seeing pictures friends have put up, and keeping in touch with family and other events (it seems facebook is always the first to know about these things..)
In a quest for an interesting picture to stick in somewhere around here, I came across this article, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't:
And that brings me on to my main point.
|A picture of the online social life?|
But what about the impact of blogging and the online social community on 'real life' relationships?
I believe there are two ways the blogger can be drawn. This mainly applies to introverted or socially slightly shy people (like myself).
The first situation: the person is going through a particularly tough time, and being fairly introverted, feels unable to talk to anyone about it. He (or she, but I'll just use he for simplicity. I'm not being sexist in any way.) needs a break from it and is drawn into the blogosphere in order to express his feelings about that situation and get away from it for a time. He finds security here, where he doesn't have to face up to his situation and can converse with people in similar situations, all the while not having to deal with people face to face. As such he becomes ever more estranged from 'real life', almost in a state of denial about what is happening outside of cyberspace, while all the time it is still niggling at the back of his mind that he should really face up to it, yet he feels increasingly unable to.
Before I go any further here's a note: here I am putting 'real life' in inverted commas, because the blogosphere is real life too. I think (as someone mentioned recently) people sometimes forget that real people reside behind all the binary and computer code connecting their thoughts with the rest of the world. Also, I hope nobody takes these comments as applied to them; these are just general observations. Perhaps you can relate to them; perhaps not.
The second situation: the person is going through a particularly tough time. The same as above applies: he does not feel able to talk it out with someone. He decides to start blogging in order to express his feelings about the situation, and discovers people who have gone through similar situations. In the process he finds it easier to express himself and his feelings. It is almost like a kind of therapy for him. His confidence in general increases, and finds that his communication skills in the 'real world' have improved greatly, and as a result of this, his relationships with 'real' people flourish, and his quality of life in general improves. After a while he may not feel the need to blog for a sense of security any more, but may still do it in order to help other people who have had similar experiences, or just for enjoyment. Cyberspace has done its job in acting as a stepping stone to his final state of self-confidence and enduring relationships.
I believe that communication skills are essential for the maintenance of any solid relationship, whether in cyberspace or the real world. If blogging or journalling or whatever it may be helps one to communicate, then that's got to be a good thing. But I believe there is also the danger of becoming completely isolated from reality, and forgetting how to do 'real life' relationships. I suppose the answer in part lies in where you find security. At the end of the day there there is no substitute and nothing like the satisfaction that can be gained from building strong and reliable physical relationships with people.