A lot of online social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter in particular, rest on the human need for connection. For letting people into your life, no matter how insignificant the post may be. Still, regardless of how inane the post may be, it’s still not the same as being there. There is no intimacy or sensory experience involved. Only reading. There is FaceTime, a more intimate connection than the phone time. And why is that? FaceTime provides hearing and visual pleasure at the same time. It is because, since we were babes in arms, the face and the sensory experiences of taste, smell, touch, and hearing come in to play for a primal sense of intimacy we all cannot live without.
For some Facebook and Twitter users I feel there is a kind of a loneliness in which we post our lives in hopes that others will “like” or respond in kind. In which the “Friends” validate one’s existence. Or at least, relieve the boredom of daily life. To some users Facebook can be like a drug–heightening a need that is never completely fulfilled, requiring more “likes”, more “friends”, more comments. Is that why I have to set the timer to make sure I don’t spend the entire day on Internet in a virtual time suck?
In a time when even the smallest thought or feeling must be shouted out and displayed to the world, the idea of what constitutes a friend has been dramatically changed. How can one have 1000 friends? Don’t we mean “followers”, and even that has a marketing or self-promoting connotation. No wonder every business has to have a Facebook “presence”.
The Internet doesn’t actually offer any of us a true sense of friendship–but more a pamphleteering of events for the community. In this sense Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other social media are phenomenal means to getting the word out about news, great and small, in an individual’s life. Maybe reading that post will result in a phone call or even something as extraordinary as a visit. Let’s just remember that the more we rely on social media as a substitute for human connection, the more we are actually doing the opposite: isolating ourselves from the very thing we want. Friendship still has to be cultivated the old-fashioned way and by definition, no one has one thousand friends. I’m waiting to be the exception. Where are my thousand true FB friends?