It’s a common comment (typically coming from those people who don’t use the Internet) that the Internet and the advent of Social Networking is contributing to the crumbling of traditional communities – instead of spending time meeting and talking with people face-to-face, more people are instead tapping away at their keyboards.
This might be partly true, but I’m sure I’m not alone in thanking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for not only helping me connect with new friends, but also re-connect with friends from the past who I’ve lost touch with, and indeed, helping to deepen relationships with existing friends from many different areas of life.
So what are the social effects of Social Networking?
The social effects of Social Networking
I’m sure we can all recall conversations where we’ve caught up with (often by chance) some-one we’ve lost touch with in the past and ended the conversation with “We should stay in touch!”… and then, typically, never stayed in touch. Much as we’d like to make those regular phone calls or visits to some friends, busy lives and other circumstances often prevent that from happening.
One of the upsides of Facebook is that it makes it easier to passively keep in touch with groups of friends, and update them on what’s happening in your life – and visa versa. Often, spotting an update from a friend I’ve been meaning to call results in me picking up the ‘phone and giving them a call with a specific subject in mind – their latest status update.
Social Networking isn’t just for the young
It’s not just the younger generation who see these benefits either. My Mom, a pensioner, joined Facebook this year. Initially it was initially a little disturbing to have Mom invading “my” on-line world, but after getting used to using the site she started to become comfortable with it and she commented on how nice it was to see what my brother, friends and I were up to (most of the time!) in between the times we normally spoke on the telephone or got together. Mom even re-connected with a lot of old friends who were also on Facebook, and she is now involved in a greater number of “off-line” activities as a result of her new-found “on-line” presence.
[tweet_box design=”default”]”Social Networking isn’t just for the young.”[/tweet_box]
Personal Support through Social Networking
Some of you will know that my family and I recently received the sad news that my 82-year old father passed away unexpectedly. For anybody who has experienced a bereavement such as this, you suddenly have thrust upon you a number of responsibilities – contacting close friends and relatives to break the bad news, organising a funeral, and much more, all whilst you’re coming to terms with the bad news yourself. When Dad died in November, and after speaking to close relatives and friends to break the bad news by telephone, Mom and I agreed to share the news of Dad’s death with our friends on Facebook. The support we received from friends and neighbours who’d found our news on-line was incredible – we received some truly wonderful and kind messages of support from many many different people – all of which made a difficult time a whole lot easier.
After the initial shock of Dad’s death, we realised people wanted to know how they could pay their respects and be notified of the funeral arrangements. People like to give flowers in such circumstances, but Dad was never keen on flowers, so we asked people to make donations to his favourite charity, The Alzheimer’s Research Trust, and within minutes we’d set up a respectful memorial Web-Site via Just-Giving to enable people to donate in this way without any administration on our part. We publicised the details of Dad’s funeral on Facebook, as well as using the more traditional method of a notice in the local newspaper, and despite the cold and the snow, a huge turn-out of family, friends and neighbours joined us for Dad’s burial service and to celebrate his life at a gathering afterwards.
Genuinely, I feel that being connected to so many friends and family in this way helped us all during a very difficult time.
So whilst we’d all love to live in a world where we have enough time to regularly keep in touch with everybody who is important to us in person and via telephone, or know our close neighbours better than simply pleasantries at you pass each other each morning, I think Social Networking is a positive contributor in the modern world – it’s not a replacement for “off-line” activities, but it certainly helps to keep us connected – perhaps simply in a different way to more traditional methods.
Thanks to everyone who has offered support to my family and I recently. It is really appreciated. If you’d like to make a donation to the The Alzheimer’s Research Trust then you can do so at www.justgiving.com/georgetubb