Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Connected....but Not Really Community?

Caption: Found this picture online and couldn't resist.

Today is Tuesday....so, today is a #letsblogoff day! Basically, several Twitter users have decided that it would be fun to bounce a random topic around via their social media worlds. I have found this to be a very interesting experience, not to mention a great way to get me writing again. Here's my official badge for the day (to show my inclusion). You can follow the other blogs by visiting www.letsblogoff.com SIDENOTE: I have not edited this post, as I feel it brings out the "realness" of it all that way...sorry if I've rambled.

The question at hand today? Do social sites like Facebook connect the world or isolate people?

Hmmm...there is a part of me that says Facebook is definitely connecting the world. Because, well, sure - it is! Facebook and other social media sites are allowing people that don't normally get to see others a way to communicate, to chat, to share things about themselves. For me, I get to see a few of my family members about every 2 to 3 years in person (yes, sad, I know, but life gets busy). Via Facebook, I have been able to view pictures of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. My Grandma even got to see pictures of my kids and family while visiting my aunts house. I've been able to chat and connect with a few people that I've lost touch with. I've been able to stay in touch with the group of middle school girls that I lead at church. Awesome, right? Yes. It is awesome to be able to have that sort of technology.

Take Twitter, for example. I consider Twitter a notch up from Facebook as far as social media goes. This is the most real time thing I've ever seen. I've been able to connect with people I would have never had the opportunity to chat with, share information with, and joke with. It is really a cool thing (even though my husband ribs me constantly with the sophmoric nature of it all...he doesn't get it).


Here's where it is time to roll up my sleeves and bring out my inner insecurities to explain why Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are not the end all and can honestly end up isolating someone:

I tend to appear to be a very outgoing person...I love to chat and hang out with people (thus why the real time nature of Twitter is so fun). Once I meet someone, I'm usually fine hanging out with them and building great community with them. I love to ask how people are and check in on them. BUT...(yes, you had to know there was going to be a but)...

I am a horrible introvert at the same time. I hate eating at restaurants alone. I almost always refuse to walk into somewhere by myself unless I know there are people I know there. I prefer to stay at home and watch a movie, rather than go out to eat where there are crowds of people. Are you getting the idea here or should I go on?

I can't explain why I'm this way, but I do realize that social media allows me to stay this way. For the most part, I do not friend someone on Facebook unless I've met them...why would I really want to? And yes, I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the Twitter folk that I follow...usually by accident. Each time I get a chance to meet one of my fellow Tweeters, I always feel a bit awkward. I have absolutely no idea why...ok, maybe I do. Could it be that it is easier to hide behind an avatar? Could it be that my high school insecurities come raging to the surface? Ummm...yeah. I think that's it in a huge nutshell. Really...I write much better than I formulate words. When I talk, I tend to trip over my tongue and have them looking quite confused. What if they think I'm an idiot? What if they stop following me after they meet me because they really see how much of a dork I am? Can I handle that? Each time I've actually gotten the courage to walk up to someone and say something to the effect of "Hey! Are you @____? I'm Splintergirl!" I've been proud of myself and happy that I did. But intially, I do tend to hide behind the avatar - not really knowing how to make the leap between virtual and actual.

So, I find timing hysterical sometimes. I actually had the opportunity to meet several local Twitter folk last Saturday evening. My husband and I were at a local resaturant. When we walked in, I recognized immediately @charleski. I said nothing, knowing that she'd never recognize the ponytailed, hatted avatar based upon the dressed up me. As we were waiting, @adamhann, @primaljeff, and another person from our church walked and sat down. Again, I squirmed. They all knew each other and work together at our church. They were having a spirited conversation. And...I said nothing. How do you stumble in on that conversation without feeling odd? Are you seeing a pattern here? To further add conviction, @mspiker and his wife @OTgremlin walked in. I have actually MET @OTgremlin and serve on a tech team with her. I actually did wave at her...whew, at least I tried, right? Then @mspiker came up with @JenniferSayer to say hi to the other folks sitting next to us...yes, right next to us. I again (yup you guessed it) said nothing. Can anyone say LOSER?

What was I thinking? I wouldn't be surprised if they all stopped following me on Twitter to be honest. Because I've essentially isolated myself, right? If they are good enough to chat with on Twitter, why did I find myself unable to introduce myself? Ahh...yes, see above fears already noted. To all of the above Lancaster people listed: my sincerest apolgoies and hope that you will offer grace. I promise to introduce myself next time with "Hi. My name is Amy Good."

So, do social media outlets connect the world? Of course they do. They make follow up with people easy and they allow for you to brighten someone's day with a kind word or two at just the right moment. Are they an end all? NO! Without face to face interaction, they are still just virtual and not real...not really. By that I mean, one's life cannot solely consist of friends in the viral world. You cannot hide behind a computer for all of your life...that would be isolation. You, as with everything in life, must have a decent balance. Some social media and some real world. Some virtual hugs and some real world hugs. Personally, I thrive on the real world ones.

So what do you think?


adam hann said...

Amy, this is a great post! I understand your fears, I feel the same way sometimes. I actually follow someone on twitter who just lives around the block from me. One day I was walking by and he was out and all I said was "Weedwhacking, huh?" because he was weed whacking.

My wife who was with me made fun of me because I didn't start a normal conversation. So other times when I run into a new tweep Amanda always later mentions weed whacking to me.

Either way, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think the biggest challenge for social media is to take the conversation from online into real life interaction. I also think the biggest benefit of social media is that we can take the conversation from online to real life interaction.

Look forward to meeting next time we run into each other!

Bob Borson said...


To a certain degree, this is a painful story to read. I think your story will resonate with a lot of people. It's not to say that you are an introvert but the speed at which online "relationship" form a extremely quick compared to the glacial speed of the traditional method of standing in front of someone and saying hello.

Most people have some sort of defensive mechanism in place to help them address their perceived shortcomings. I use humor and false bravado to insulate myself and people would think I am the most outgoing person in the world but it's not really the truth - but how would anybody know if our entire relationship was based on Twitter or Facebook? So I have a simple rule I use to tell whether or not I have a shallow relationship with someone or not. Would I call you to come get me out of jail? Sounds severe but it distinguishes the difference between friends and an acquaintance. I'm okay having both.

Amy Good said...

Thanks, Adam. And, Bob....I know what you mean. People that know me are always shocked to hear that I don't feel comfortable meeting new people. Don't get me wrong...I love to talk and that helps me. But, I too have learned the art of laughing at myself to make it seem like I'm quite comfortable. It has been just recently that I've been real with people and honest about my insecurities....somehow, the tough as nails exterior was just not working for the inner me. :)

Becky / @ecomod said...

Amy - that picture is perfect for an introvert!

Nice post. It's interesting to compare the nuances of online conversation to real life conversation.

Real life conversation has so much more input than reading text on a screen. So it's no wonder it's more challenging to jump in!

In real life we're dealing with appearances, inflection & tone, not to mention non-verbal body language. Then there's the environment itself, like whether the sun's in your eyes, or someone's cologne is making you sneeze.

Processing all that info could lock anybody up! How do you decide what to talk about first? Or whether to talk at all? (This is especially challenging for introverts like us, who spend most of the time in their heads, thinking.)

All this to say that talking on a screen & talking in real life are very different. The commonality they share is you don't have to say anything until you feel comfortable!

I want to know where I can get one of those sweaters.

@catherine_delia said...

I felt like I was looking in the mirror while reading your post. Thanks for saying it out loud. I've been reading a bit about will power and control and what I as a person can control about my life. There's so much and it does take that extra umph to push through some of those anxietal (just made up a new word?) barriers.

Nick @ Cupboards said...

I really appreciate you posting this-

In a way, I feel kind of like you do just from a different angle. I'm sure everyone understands and has to be "on" for work. We all put on a big smile and that customer service voice comes out when we are meeting people. When I go home, I turn that off... it's been a unique balance for me to see how I interact face-to-face business and personal, and compare that to my "twitter-time". I don't want people to think I'm fake, because I'm not.

Now, your restaurant situation would've happened a little differently had I been there. You wouldn't have gotten away without speaking because I would've approached you, interrupted your dinner and asked the waiter to bring me a drink. Yup... I would've crashed your meal. ;-)

jb @BMoxieBMore said...

Amy I would NEVER take you as an introvert -- and I am pretty sure you are not the only one that we tweet with that feels in someway like this.

I understand the safe empowerment of it (the internet) and how individuals at times could feel isolated (the "medium" can foster that) but I see it more as a connector -- no doubt -- bringing people that were meant to be together together. (the isolation may come more in the ease of communication -- easier to email than call, etc.)

AND I would hope you know that if *we* ever met - you could be both Splintergirl and Amy around me . . . I don't care (and I think there are others feel like this too) you are you and I am me (jb and BMoxie) -- at least I hope it is that way in the majority of cases (but hey maybe I am naive).

Thank you for sharing this personal side of yourself Amy. great one ~ jb

Cham said...

Thank God I'm not the only one who looks better on paper! (er, screen) My speech struggles to live up to my written word every day. Take for instance, the debate I had to participate in for one of my courses recently on whether or not we should celebrate Columbus Day - I wrote a great position paper (my professor's words, not mine), but I tripped all over myself in front of the class.

I have more anxiety over waving down a semi-unfamiliar classmate at the library than I do about 'liking' their status on facebook.

So, yes, some of us just vocalize and socialize better via written (or typed) mediums than we do in person. It's up to us to bring our 'IRL' selves up to par! Great read and a relief to have a commiserator! (Looove that photo by the way; I had a little o_O moment when I saw it)