Social Media. There are innumerous immediate positives associated with being able to expand our networks beyond those reachable by human contact or even phone. It is clearly great that Grandma Marge in Florida can see her two year old grandson take his first steps via skype or that Dr. Shmorg can reach a fan base of 20,000 with his “daily health tips” blog! For all the doors that social media opens to our instant gratification society, is it to the detriment of intimate human relationships?
You may be familiar with Dunbar’s number, which through ape and human observation, he claims that we are only able to have a network of 150 people. A network vastly beyond this number can prove disadvantageous to a person, as their limited human resources are stretched too thin and their relationships may suffer or dissolve. Now think for a moment, how many friends do you currently have on facebook? Now take that number, and of those, how many do you regularly look at their photos and updates? Now take that number, and how many of them could you sit down face-to-face and enjoy a lunch or dinner? I am willing to wager that very few of the people whom you are following on facebook or twitter would be a compatible lunch companion, as you may find that you know every detail of their life, without really knowing anything about them. How bizarre!
Now this leads us to a young man named Jake Reilly and his ‘Amish Project.’ Aware of the toll that social media was taking on his life, by devouring hours of productivity (i.e. following hundreds of tweets instead of having coffee with dear friends), he spent 90 days completely disconnected from social media. Read the linked article below to follow his journey and learn from his insights.
While much of what he gained was improved personal relationships, he also lost several relationships because technology does make connections easier, and some people don’t have the personal time or resources to connect in more humanistic ways. So if we lose friends by unplugging from social media, and we gain deep personal relationships, but with fewer people, is there a good moral to taking either route? Yes! Moderation. Perhaps using your gadgets, but not to excess and make a point of connecting in a human, physical way with people whom you are only connecting with through a computer.