Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Quantity vs Quality IRL

Yesterday as I was driving to work, I was listening to a discussion on NPR about how the rate of living alone has gone up significantly in recent years (it should be noted that the gentleman in question was talking big-picture so "recent years" means, since the 1950's). It used to be that when a marriage ended, due to divorce or death, a person would move in with family. These days, people are choosing to go it alone.

A caller expressed a concern that people are becoming more and more isolated--especially with the advent of so many fancy-schmancy digital devices that keep people connected so much. She feared that while human beings are social creatures, we're doing our best to unintentionally isolate ourselves more and more. That things like Facebook and other social media are pulling us out of even the real life settings in which we find ourselves.

The gentleman said that is a very common observation and that there have been some studies done on this very subject (I'm sorry that I can't give you more source material than "NPR" and "The Gentleman" but it's a very short drive to work). Obviously, the information is very new and constantly evolving but according to research, a person who is active in forms of social media--someone who is constantly connected to their iPhone and their Facebook account is actually more likely to approach a stranger in a social setting than most people were 10 years ago.

And I found that fascinating. Because, on the surface, yeah--it does look like that. Like, we're surrounded by a room full of people and everyone's looking at a tiny screen instead of one another. I was at a Super Bowl party the other night and almost everyone was looking into their iPhone--commenting on one another's Facebook statuses, pictures and comments even though we were all in the room. We could have all had that conversation in real life. But it was a fun, under the table discussion--two conversations at once.

So I guess my question is... are we becoming less social or more social? It's hard to tell.
Ten years ago, we'd have to stay home and wait by the phone to talk to a friend. Right now, we can go do whatever we want. Be with whomever we choose whenever we like--and still not miss that appointment with the other friend. We can stay connected. We can mix business and pleasure.

Are we getting quantity and the cost of quality? I honestly don't know. I just haven't stopped thinking about it since yesterday and so I thought I'd see what you guys think about it.


MLE said...

I don't think I'd have connected with you without today's technology. You and your blog add to the quality of my life.

Staci said...

I noticed the phone obsessed-ness too. I don't know what to do about it (had the game been more exciting maybe I would have paid more attention). If it helps... I accidentally left my phone at home when I went back to work after lunch. Detox? Maybe. But I just wanna play "cash machine!"

Jamie Light said...

I think that, as with most things, there are positives and negatives that come with social media. I have found in myself that, thanks to facebook and text messaging, I have a really hard time holding a telephone conversation. I don't know what to do with myself, and I usually end up feeling like I was awkward and not expressing myself as well as I would have hoped, in the end. However, I have been able to stay connected with many people that would have been impossible to stay connected with otherwise, and I can allow myself some "me" time without feeling like I am neglecting my friends...because I can go online and comments on status' and whatnot.
I feel that people always want these generational changes to be bad things, when really they're just changes...and that's okay.

Laurie said...

Facebook must be faced! It is complicated for many of the reasons you expressed!
I might answer that we are getting quantity at the cost of quality, at least in some ways. Obviously it has opened up new ways of communicating, expressing, selling and socializing, but it does beg the questions you asked.
(Facebook sometimes reminds me of high school hall conversations that usually bred quantity rather than quality.)
When I look back at life before facebook, I remember it as less complicated with a more relaxed and natural ebb and flow and without the stress or clamor of a high school hallway! (But oh yes, on facebook, you control who you see in the hall!!!)
As stimulating, constant and usually instantly gratifying as Facebook can be, my question is, “Is Facebook a substitute or an enhancement for flesh and bone, face-to-face, one-on-one friendship?” I’d guess it can be both. I don’t know. I wonder. I guess it’s a blessing that can also be a curse if not used well? You did ask… and that's my blah, blah, blah about social/relational/recreational networking. I wonder who is the oldest and youngest facebook user! Thanks for your thoughts!

Post a Comment