Ally Hammond - Study

Facebook: Preventing or Inhibiting Intimate Human Interaction?

I never quite understood why this class was called, Living Through Technology, because I was always under the impression that we lived with technology. However, over the past week, the meaning has become more defined for me.

I wanted to take a closer look at how Facebook relates with human interaction, focusing on the intimacy of day-to-day life. Does Facebook prevent us, as humans, from being less intimate with each other?

The Beginning

In preparation for this project I did the unbelievable: yes, I deleted my Facebook. A whole week, sans Facebook, can you believe it? The last time I had been away from a social networking site this long was when I backpacked through Europe and didn’t have a computer, but then I was actually doing things—I was in Europe after all. How was I to survive an entire week (including a weekend at home with my family…) without this crucial key to my social world?

I found out rather quickly, that I was lying to myself when I said I wouldn’t miss that much in a week. I went from Monday-Sunday to ensure I had an entire weekend away from the virtual world. Throughout the week I made sure to jot down thoughts I had regarding my time away from social networking;

Monday: Welp, quit cold turkey. Found a new website, Pinterest, to occupy time and the need to click through something while watching TV. Not too upset about loss of Facebook…yet.

Tuesday: Got really bored in class around 3:31… (ha, just kidding Professor Collier). Mom called to tell me to check Facebook because my friend from preschool got engaged, I told her I deactivated so she emailed me pictures instead.

Wednesday: Annoying. My sorority has a Facebook group where we post comments, events, or directions, instead of clogging everybody’s email with 600 emails daily. Normally for important information the Facebook group just reiterates what is said on the emails, but of course, not this week. A googledoc sign up for Breast Cancer Awareness Booths went out only on the Facebook group, so I couldn’t sign up for a time that worked with my schedule. Also, the time of a chapter workshop was changed to an hour later, and notified only on the Facebook group. When I asked the girl in charge of the workshop why she only sent this out via Facebook, she answered that people were more likely to check Facebook than their email. False.

Thursday: Friends got the idea that I wasn’t on Facebook, so they started texting or calling about everything important they thought I might need to know.

Friday: Realizing that I’m getting a lot more texts/calls than I had been earlier in the week.

Saturday: Went apple picking with my family. My sister kept muploading (mobile uploading, to clarify), I was too cool. My friends texted and asked what I was doing instead of me putting a picture up.

Sunday: Really want to see everybody’s pictures from date party… guess I can wait until Monday.”

The Afterthoughts

As you can see, around mid-week when my friends figured out that no, they were not misspelling my name repeatedly, I actually was no longer virtual; they got the idea to text or call me to get in touch or share something funny they noticed throughout the day. Little Facebook posts that would have been something along the lines of, “hahaha omg just had your favorite ABP sandwich! miss ya!!” were turned into texts of, more or less, the same thing. A funny story normally told via Facebook chat, turned into a phone call discussing the exact same thing. Communication became more personal, more direct and intimate, than just a post on my “wall” that everybody can see. By intimate, I do not mean to insinuate intimate as in romantically at all, I am purely saying close human contact: as in direct and personalized conversation or interaction. Because who really cares if you just ate my favorite sandwich? Answer is, nobody but me, so why bother posting that, and allowing the internet to archive that trivial amount of information.

However, throughout the week I can say that I did feel as though I was being left out of things, or forgotten. Not that it was anybody’s fault, I had always had Facebook and known everything, and suddenly one random week I’m gone from an information source? I shouldn’t have let that bother me that people didn’t realize immediately that I was gone, but I did, a little bit. I guess I am a product of my generation after all, even though I was only unplugged for a short week, I wanted to be in the know, I wanted to see what everybody wore to which fraternity’s date party—I wanted to live through my technology. I understand now, that I purely live with my technology, Facebook is a small extension of what goes on in daily life, and will never take away from personal, day-to-day interactions, but some kids who have grown up on Facebook don’t realize this. Some kids want to make Facebook their life; where will this lead them?

Among the rambling, I think it’s important to realize that throughout the week I didn’t communicate with anybody through a computer screen, but rather through texting, phone calls, and face-to-face interaction. My time away from the internet made all conversations more personalized towards me (not to sound narcissistic), and private because nobody else could comment on or like them. One may argue that texting is still a non-intimate form of communication, but when compared to Facebook I disagree. With texting, though it’s not face to face interaction, it’s a direct conversation between two people, normally intended for their eyes only. I think the personalization of a texting conversation, rather than broadcasting what you ate for lunch via social networking, makes texting a more intimate form of communication than Facebook allows for.

The Research

As previously mentioned in multiple class discussions, Facebook creates an illusion that everybody is happy, polished, and seemingly perfect all the time. This illusion makes Facebook users, especially those insecure teenage users, doubt themselves socially or otherwise, when an in real life (IRL for bloggers) conversation, could have avoided such feelings. One pediatrician interviewed on Today on NBC said, “It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down…because Facebook provides a skewed view of what's really going on.” (Tanner).

Sherry Turkle tells the story of Audrey who, “finds face-to-face conversation difficult and avoids the telephone at all cost” (Turkle 197). Audrey lives her life mainly through Facebook and other internet interactions. Yet, even with her online interactions, Audrey recognizes the need for face-to-face human interaction in some circumstances in order to convey intimate emotions. When she moves away to a new school district, Audrey, “was disappointed when one of her friends at her former school sent her an instant message to tell her she would be missed. Audrey’s comment: “It was really sweet, but I just wished that—it would have meant so much more if we could’ve done that face-to-face…” (Turkle 197). Even though Audrey was receiving messages that people missed her, she wanted more; she wanted what the internet could not give her, and that was face-to-face, intimate, human contact. She realizes that anybody can say I’m sorry, or I miss you online, “It’s easy. All you have to do is type ‘I’m sorry’. You don’t have to have any emotion, any believability in your voice or anything” (Turkle 196).

But what happens when teens, unlike Audrey, don’t recognize the need for intimate behavior in some situations? The American Academy of Pediatrics has recognized that, “roughly 75% of teenagers use social networking sites, and almost a quarter admit to logging on more than 10 times a day. …while much good can come from connecting with your family and friends online…it can also harm…kids.” (Tanner). One teenage boy from the video clip on Today describes how, “it can be kind of a letdown if you go on and no one cares about you,” directly confusing the activity—or lack there of—on his Facebook, with being cared for intimately by a human. Because of this sediment teens hold, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued “a set of guidelines for doctors to deal with the psychological impact of social media on teens. The report emphasizes that the virtual world can have a very real impact on the self-esteem of teenagers because ‘a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet.’” (American Academy of Pediatrics). Could all these problems of teens feeling left out, or not cool because nobody wrote on their Facebook wall be avoided if conversations resorted back to being IRL and more personal? There is no doubt that an excess amount of Facebooking is directly related to teens “anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders” (American Psychological Association).

Researchers note that Facebook changing its layout every so often gives teens another disadvantage. I noticed that when Facebook changed its layout, everything became public; I immediately changed all these settings back to as private as I wanted it, but some uninformed teens might not have done so. Psychiatrists say that having everything open gives, “an all-access pass to the fodder needed for rumor-mongering, gossip and slam-book-style attacks re-imagined for an Internet age” (Perez). Having everything up and open to the public, makes you a more pronounced figure, and in some circumstances, more prone to cyber bullying. On Facebook, it’s easy to forward conversations without anybody’s consent, repost embarrassing pictures that nobody wants found, or, as Audrey pointed out, say things that you would never say to anybody IRL. You are protected by a screen, sometimes along with anonymity, allowing you to ruin somebody’s day (potentially life) in the click of a mouse. Would teens have this much viciousness, this much power over each other in a face-to-face conversation? Surely not. With Facebook, they can post a mean comment, have 100 friends like it, and ruin a shy girl’s day in 40 seconds flat.

The Synthesis

Okay, so what that I deactivated Facebook, missed some events but talked to my friends more, and then spewed out a bunch of facts about how teenagers are all going to be screwed up if they keep on Facebooking like their lives depend on it? What I was trying to convey in the last 1,000 words, is that human beings need IRL interaction. Face-to-face interaction is supposed to happen, people that live their lives in seclusion, produce great novels, but are complete weirdos. Human beings need to be socialized, they have a desire to talk to people in reality, because if they don’t they get messed up. These teenagers are suffering from low self esteem and depression because they see their friends flitting away in la-la Facebook land where everything’s going swimmingly.

I realized when I deactivated that the only thing I really lost was feeling a sense of satisfaction that somebody had liked something witty I posted, or that the cute boy I met last Friday wanted to be my friend—WHO CARES? My friends laugh at things I say all the time IRL, and that’s so much better than having them say “hahahaha”, they could not even be laughing when they’re typing! By using Facebook as a primary source of interaction and communication, you miss out on so much. You miss the personalization of a call or text meant just for you; you miss the moments when you can see your friends having tears running down their faces because something that funny just happened: the internet can never give you that. These kids that use the internet to communicate all the time are missing the intimacy of human interaction that really defines living. They would rather wallow behind a 17-inch screen, waiting for somebody to boost their self confidence by liking their status, rather than calling their friends to see what they’re actually doing. No wonder everybody’s depressed, nobody can be positively reinforced by their friends or families anymore; instead, they wait for somebody—anybody—to notice their action on an internet page.

To conclude, I would have to say that Facebook definitely inhibits intimate human communication. Also, it’s super creepy in wanting to take over the internet: I think I’ll stay deactive for a while.


Works Cited

American Psychological Association. Social networking's good and bad impacts on kids. 7 August 2011. 16 October 2011.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting. 2 March 2011. 16 October 2011
<http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/june09socialmedia.htm>.

Does Facebook add to teen loneliness, depression? Dir. NBC. Perf. Matt Lauer. 2011. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/42319557#42319557>

Perez, Sarah. More Cyberbullying on Facebook, Social Sites than Rest of Web. 10 May 2012. 16 October 2011 <http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/more_cyberbullying_on_facebook_social_sites_than_rest_of_web.php>.

Tanner, Lindsey. Docs warn about teens and 'Facebook depression'. 29 March 2011. 16 October 2011 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42298789/ns/health-mental_health/t/docs-warn-about-teens-facebook-depression/#.Tp3kVxzdBLO>.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York: Basic Books, 2011.