A recent essay in the New York Times (December 2, 2007) talked about the growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and others where the word “friends” is used to describe email relationships with folks we barely know. Humans are gregarious creatures and fare better belonging to networks of family, community, spiritual groups, clubs, and so forth – all of which are sustained through face-to-face contact.
The bottom line is that the more time we spend online, the less time we spend having true relationships complete with challenges, vulnerability, risks and profundity. These are not real-world relationships with depth. These on-line relationships are shadows and facsimiles which ultimately amount to little more than casual, superficial experiences.
One mother, Jene, who listens regularly to my radio program, sent me this letter her 21 year-old son wrote to Facebook. I suggest you show this to all your children and read it twice yourself if you are hooked to on-line pseudo-friendships:
“As a mother of two young adults, I’ve witnessed their obsessive involvement with the many electronic forms of communication that are all the rage in recent years…email, instant messaging, texting, and the several web-based social networks like Facebook and MySpace. All are useful communication tools, but often counterproductive in really getting to know people.
It came to my attention that my 21 year-old son took a bold step recently and closed down his Facebook account by writing a breaking-up letter and posting it as a good-bye. When he shared it with me, I was touched, relieved, and very proud of his stand. I asked him if I might share this with you. His grin, soft laugh and nod of his head spoke volumes: