Pseudo-Intimacy

As the world gets more maniacally¬†‘social’, I find myself increasingly at odds with the media of mediated social interaction. I spent an initially interesting and enlightening, then desultory, period of about 7 or 8 months on F-Book before closing my account (thereby rendering me “Friendless”, as a colleague only half-jokingly remarked).

I’ve commented elsewhere that I found the cost/benefit equation for the F-Book experience remarkably threadbare on the benefit side. Perhaps I was burdened with a not particularly fertile circle of ‘friends’, but I doubt my experience was atypical.

As F-Book and Twitter become ever more ubiquitous, I’m puzzled by what fuels their seemingly limitless popularity and participation. They’re clearly more than ‘fads’, but what they add to people’s lives frankly eludes me.

I’ve heard Twitter described as “the global clearinghouse for cerebral flatulence”. I wish I’d said that, because it strikes me as a perfect description of a time-waster of epic proportions.

F-Book has at least a theoretical potential for social utility, but I’d guess that, as with many things ‘new’, the unintended consequences are initially subtle and take a while to identify. I wonder if it’s not this:

As people get deeper into online interaction, do they perceptibly curtail their direct interaction with their peers? I think so. I’ve noticed a number of active F-Book participants whose output is prodigious to say the least, yet who are difficult to have anything more than a perfunctory face-to-face conversation with. Others are impossible to reach either by regular email or on the phone.

Is it possible that online interaction is so seductive because it takes a lot of the working side of social interaction – active listening, dealing with boring topics, crafting empathic responses, etc. – and makes them almost entirely elective?

Does it become possible to ‘fake’ intimacy just enough to feel socially engaged, without having to do much of the heavy lifting that real interaction involves? Is F-Book to intimacy what, say, the telephone is to sex?

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