Social Networking Not A Substitute For Real Social Interaction?

Even for the most social of us, new circumstances or environments foster some amount of anxiety. Whether it is the move to college, new classes, a new job, or even a new group of friends, social anxiety is not abnormal. Recent changes in the way we communicate with one another may not be helping. It is important to note, though, that feelings beyond slight anxiety should probably be reviewed or discussed with a professional.

Social anxiety differs on a case-by-case basis and is sparked by different circumstances, but finding yourself avoiding social interactions of any kind should be discussed with a professional—which are available via counseling services on college campuses nation-wide.

It was not that long ago that cell phones, much less unlimited texting plans, were not widely available… making social interaction reliant on…eek!.. actual face-to-face interaction. Now, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, text and BBM messaging, seeing those that you engage with is no longer a necessity. Missing a friend is now likely translated into a *poke* or commenting on a wall. Having an actual “shoulder to cry on,” is now sometimes seen as a rare novelty. The Washington Post in 2006 published an article citing statistics that show that Americans are feeling increasingly isolated in a world of heightened cyber interactivity. The Post cites Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the 2004 study for the General Social Survey, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.  According to the survey, the Post reported that a quarter of Americans said, “they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.”

“We know these close ties are what people depend on in bad times,” Smith-Loven said.  “We’re not saying people are completely isolated. They may have 600 friends on [a popular networking Web site] and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important.”

Now, those results were years ago—imagine what they would be today. While social media and new technology have absolutely changed and mobilized the way we interact with one another in the global sphere, it is also important to know that not too long ago, our interactions were vastly different. It would not hurt, in my humble opinion, to try to maintain some of those habits. Meet friends for lunch, go for a walk with someone you haven’t caught up with in a while, dust off your stationary and write your parents a hand-written note, and give someone you love a hug.

The need for real, human interaction is not lost on us yet. Integrating face-to-face meetings with people may help increase social confidence and communication ability. You may find that showing someone that you have actually LOL’d at their joke would feel more mutually satisfying than having them read it. It may help, if even in the slightest bit, in easing the increase of social anxiety in a world that is greatly reliant on connectivity.


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