Social Intelligence: Is Facebook your only friend?

Contributed by Amanda Anastasio, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

If you spend hours a day writing on “walls” and Facebook “stalking,” the answer may be yes.  It may be amusing, but using technology to interact with each other can possibly make it harder to have more deep interpersonal connections. Technology and social media make life easy, I know. But dare I say there is a dark side to relying on this for the bulk of communications!

Girl using social media on computer, close up of mouse

A recent study (McMillan & Morrison 2006) on the youth and internet reported that young people felt the internet was “needed” to maintain social interactions. How could this be so, with the internet only widely available starting in the late 1980s? Most students surveyed said they feel “expected” to be online and connected to social media or they are not part of the community.

When was the last time you felt a deep connection or communicated a real feeling or emotion, such as affection, respect, joy, or contentment, through a text message or a wall posting?

If students feel that these forms of communicating, texting, tweeting, facebooking, etc. are needed for social interaction and to be part of the community, it sounds like a chunk of the satisfaction of human interaction is floating away into cyberspace.

Studies have shown that we get the most satisfaction out of person-to-person, real-life connections we have every day. Internet and smart phones may make your life easier, but not your relationships. Messages sent through technology can easily mix up meanings and cause confusion. How many times have you pondered the meaning behind a text, these short snippets and squids of expression, only to find out the sentiment (sarcasm, humor, discontent ) you sensed wasn’t really there at all?

With the understanding that most people are interacting on Facebook with people they know in real life, there is still something to be said for actual human interaction without the use of devices. It’s the conversations, the tones, the inflections, the looks, the body language. These are things we must practice; these are skills that are learned. There is an inherent social aspect to being human, but it’s called “social skills” for a reason. Pardon the cliché, but if you don’t use them in the real world, you will lose them!

There is a saying, “A friend’s eye is the best mirror.” By spending time with others and relating to people on intimate levels, we discover our preferences for friendships and romantic partners. Most people find out the most about themselves through their relationships with others, and sadly, this can’t be done without meaningful, offline contact.

The internet, Facebook, and technology have allowed a vastness in communication unmatched by anything else, but the level of intensity that we can communicate through these means is minimal compared to how we can grow to know each other and ourselves through face-to-face or even phone conversations.

To increase your real-life interactions every day, call friends or classmates together for a study group. Don’t get lost in your phone or computer while you wolf down your lunch; eat as a group or in pairs.  And remember, the next time you get the urge to “poke” someone on Facebook, just pick up the phone and get together!  Your relationship with your friend and yourself will be better off.

How do you break free from technology each day and spend quality social time with friends and family? Click here for more Social Intelligence posts.

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