Is Facebook making lonely people lonelier?

When I was having coffee with a friend the other day, I casually asked her why she wasn't on Facebook. My friend, let's call her Tifannie-Britannie Cherrie Smith, said that she had been, but that she deleted her account because the whole experience just made her feel bad.

After exploring the topic a bit more with Tifannie-Britannie, I learned that she had jumped on the Facebook wagon with much excitement. She had connected with a few dozen people, commented about things on their walls, and covered her page with interesting videos, links, photos, music, and other things she wanted to share. Day after day, no one commented on her status. No one hit the "like" button to give her a thumbs up. No one said anything.

She felt a bit dejected, but she persisted. She continued to engage with her "friends," reading their status updates and wall posts and leaving positive comments, but after weeks of a one-sided relationship she had finally had enough. She felt rejected and ignored. It was high school all over again. Tifannie-Britannie said she started to feel like the wallflower at the school dance; watching everyone else enjoy themselves.

I share Tifannie-Britannie's story as a reminder of good etiquette in social networking. Like all relationships, whether they be platonic, romantic, or business, a healthy dose of give and take is essential. If someone engages with you, have the courtesy to reciprocate.

As Emily Post said in her book Emily Post's Etiquette - The Blue Book of Social Usage, "Sensitive awareness of the reactions of others is a priceless gift. Inexcusably, many of us do not even note the effect that our unthinking speech or behavior is quite plainly having upon the feelings of others."

If Post were still alive today, I have no doubt that she'd update her book with a chapter on social media.

27 comments:

  1. Facebook is for geeks. 10 years ago if you were using a computer or the internet these "facebook crowds" would call you a geek, now look at them. most cant even go a single day without checking their facebook statuses. Really pathetic and its drawing society even farther away from face to face communication.

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  2. Dear Anonymous:

    I agree with you that face to face communication should still be our ultimate goal in society. Fortunately, the vast majority of my social media friends get that and we make every effort to connect in real life as much as possible.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

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  3. Thats why i deleted my facebook account! I mean i never was a person who had loads of friends and was good at making friends, but i thought people would have the decency to comment back when people show them some love on their page.

    The headline page on Facebook is the equivalent of being the single "looser guy" at the bar watching all the other guys get down with the girls on the dancefloor. It did nothing for me except make me realise how lonely i really am.

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  4. Actually facebook is for people who actually "HAVE FRIENDS" not for people who have only 16 friends on facebook and expect 598 people to be looking at the profile and commenting. Not trying to be mean or offfensive but if u know u dont have many friends its probaly wise that u dont get on facebook in the first place.

    P.S:Facebook isnt for geeks. Your just angry inside because you probaly didnt have much friends no offense.

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  5. Dear Anonymous Number Two (I'm assuming that your comments are directed at Anonymous Commenter Number One):

    Funny that your take is that Facebook is for people who actually "HAVE FRIENDS". As with most social media platforms, they are different things to different people. Therefore, I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment.

    Personally, I'm friends with people I know in real life and also others who I've met through FB who share common interests with me. People have different experiences in social media, much as in life.

    The original Anonymous commenter opened up and shared his or her loneliness and those feelings are valid. I see no reason to mock or cast judgment.

    I don't think anyone with 16 friends is expecting 598 people to look at their profile. It's just a matter of reciprocating. It's good manners to give and not just take.

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  6. I never posted status anything or expected my friends to comment on something which i post.

    But, me and my friends use facebook as a common platform to share whatever we find that seems interesting or need attention of others.Mostly links of good web-sites,jokes or some media content that has some effect on someone that they might not notice.
    Eg: Results of 2nd semester are out on students portal
    or
    customize windows 7 with new themes.Here goes the link...etc

    In this way,we found Facebook to be useful,particularly when we are away from school.

    Checking Facebook once in a day and spending 10 minutes to see if we can find anything interesting is fine.

    But anything more than that is something which needs to be avoided.

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  7. Facebook is another McDonaldization, it's fast and cheap. Also I have never seen so much narcism! Soo sad.. As a friend said there is nothing unique about facebook and its users, yet there is nothing identical to our own voices, our individual handwriting, our personal style of writing. And there is nothing more sincere than making the effort to connect with one person at a time.
    I wish

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  8. What a great post! I've been on FB for 3 years now, and I still have mixed emotions, for all the reasons you mentioned. Also, I think FB forces us to remain in Luke warm relationships longer than natural. It used to be that you left a job and saw few if any of your former co-workers ever again. But on FB they continue to stay in your life in an even more superficial way, leaving comments on your page as if you were best friends and sharing their political views. I'm still trying to find the value in it.

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  9. i think FB is more for voyeurs. i mean, people with more than 100 friends are just watching a streaming crowd of people they don't actually know at all engage on occasion with other people they probably don't know that well. we are observing other people relating to each other. but then in amongst the stream of unidentifiable chat we have an opportunity to slip in some exchanges directly, and even completely privately, with our own real life friends and family. for me it's mainly a simplified extension of email with a crowed like atmosphere in which you can find corners of relative discretion.

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  10. Dinesh: You have a healthy attitude toward Facebook. And, as is the case with most things, balance is pivotal. You're right; too many people do live on Facebook.

    Anonymous: Ah, to go back to a simpler time. Yes, none of these platforms can, or should, ever replace the satisfaction of a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation. They can, sometimes, be a nice supplement for those who have extended family or friends who live far away. Your point is well-taken, though.

    TJ: Your comment really strikes a chord with me and the co-worker comment is oh so true! I've recently culled my "friends" to represent those who I really do have relationships with. And taken out those former co-workers that you mention. Although, I HAVE discovered, through Facebook, that I do have lots in common with some former co-workers. People I never got to talk with at work and only through FB have I discovered that I really like them! I, like you, do have mixed emotions sometimes, too. I think the main thing is that we all use these tools in the ways that work for us personally and not be swayed by how the masses use them. Thanks so much for commenting!

    Anonymous: I can see how that might be a common experience. I think one of the basic flaws with Facebook is the word "friends". As you say, we all know people don't really have hundreds of real friends. Or thousands! It really depends on your motivation for using Facebook and how you choose to use it. What works for me, may not work for you, which may not work for Who-Shot-John. As long as we're true to ourselves in using these platforms, I think that's what matters most. :->

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  11. I agree, there are a lot of rude and selfish people on Facebook, where the golden rule obviously is completely forgotten. I too comment and always answer the comments I get, it's common curtesy, but sometimes I feel like I'm the only one amongst my "friends" who understand what curtesy is. Facebook is making me feel sad too, and I think your blogpost is very important. It's no mystery to why people still comment on it, there are a lot of people feeling lonely on the net(I'm one of them) and it feels like we don't have a voice at all, because no one will listen. I do feel worse since I opened my facebook-account, so maybe it's time to close it.
    Thanks for posting,

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  12. C.C., thanks for commenting. Well, I say anything that makes you feel bad is not something you should have in your life. Not all this social media stuff is a fit for everyone and not each platform is a natural fit.

    I'm sorry to hear that this post resonates with you. No matter how big the world is, it's still so easy to feel alone sometimes, isn't it?

    My good thoughts are with you, C.C.

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  13. Thanks for posting. I've been teaching my students about Netiquette this week and your post is perfect to share as are the anonymous comments and will be good to discuss.

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  14. Thanks for posting. We all need a reminder of how to behave on social media. Reciprocity is key. Everyone on Facebook is a breathing, living human being and we should treat them as such.

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  15. All Facebook does is magnify social dynamics. If no one comments on your content, it's a good opportunity to find out why. The PR wisdom one can gain could enhance your life, don't hide from the opportunity.

    Otherwise, let the bridges you burn light the way! #cliche

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  16. Oh, that's wonderful! I love the idea of this issue being discussed in a netiquette exercise! I, too, found it especially interesting that so many people commented anonymously (that's before I changed my commenting system and people could do that).

    Would love to hear how the class goes! And, thank you so much for stopping by to read and comment ;-)

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  17. Too true.

    I think the keyboard frequently allows people to disassociate themselves a bit, thereby feeling less accountable for their actions.

    I appreciate you sharing your insights. Thank you!

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  18. Just curious, how would you suggest people find out?

    As for that cliche, that's too funny. I've never heard that one.

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  19. Great post. Glad to have found your blog. Adding to my reader right now!

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  20. Oh, thank you! Glad we could bond over on the other blog about being left out ;-)

    Nice to meet you, Jenny!

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  21. Thanks for your post.  So true!  I am weening myself off facebook.  Haven't decided yet if deleting it is the answer, but I've deactivated it for now.  It started out nice in the beginning--the photos, the statuses, the wall posts, and comments.  I interacted more in the first couple years, leveled out at 120 friends, and haven't felt the desire to interact with anyone after fewer and fewer people would comment on my statuses.  I didn't expect them to, but it just seems like it would be courtesy to reply to a comment I made.  I usually did.  It's just all seeming so pointless.  And my best friends I've known since childhood are the ones who communicate with me the least on there.  I've found that things I post are sometimes misunderstood.  I've had guys and even girls get the wrong idea about things I put on there when really I just happen to like a song I decide to post.  For me the fascination is over--it's voyeuristic, narcissistic, and insensitive for the most part.  It's easy to make someone feel isolated and lonely.  Oh, and it's a huge time waster.

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  22. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. It seems that a lot of people share your opinion.

    There's a lot to be said for doing something as long as you enjoy it, but knowing when to stop. If it's not a pleasurable experience for you, I say it's time to cut your losses. :-).

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  23. I personally find Facebook the most stupidest invention yet, more than half of Facebook users don't even know what was that website created for. In reality Facebook is nothing more than a online version of a phone book with a ad board. Nearly quarter of registered users are inactive and were using that website for one two days. Does it make lonely people lonelier?  Yes everyone that constantly waste lot's of hours on the internet are really lonely.

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  24. I am always promoting my articles on FB. I seldom get likes from
    family and friends. I have been doing this for a few years. Someone
    close to me just simply stated that these people don't understand what I
    do. Often times they may feel that I think I am better. It's so uncanny
    because I support their content. I just don't engage in telling
    personal things about myself online. However, they may "like" my updated
    pictures. Otherwise 99% of the time, no one takes the time to view my
    work or discuss my work. I am a black woman by the way. I do think it
    makes a difference. My peers and family do not embrace what I do. I
    write about political issues from day to day and truly terrific stories
    about women as well. In the last few years I have written 124 articles. I
    have did over 600 commentaries on my site.

    Ultimately my
    thoughts are this. I will continue my work. My work is for those who
    wish to listen. I have had some of my work published and even been apart
    of other projects. My work is not for my Facebook friends. It saddens
    me that friends and family don't support me, but I am making a career
    out of what I do. This is only the beginning.

    Oh may I add that a
    lot of folks on Facebook think they are celebrities. They do not care
    about anyone else's content or work. They only care about who "likes"
    and comments on their content. It's so silly. What will these folks do
    if they ever lose their Facebook celebritism?

    ReplyDelete
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