05 May 2010

More or Less Connected?

The other day, as I was walking with a friend at lunchtime, she told me about a close friend of hers in high school who still hadn't made the leap to Facebook. At her urging, the friend joined the social networking giant, but much to her surprise, their usual phone conversations became more and more infrequent because they "saw" each other on Facebook.

When I read the New York Times article "Antisocial Networking?" that asks how does technology affect kids' friendships, I couldn't help but be reminded of my friend's story and reflect on my own friendships since the dawn of email, texting, and Facebook.

The trajectory of social media, particularly Facebook, coincided with the birth of my daughter, so I can't tell if I talk on the phone less because I Facebook or instant message (IM) friends more, or because my almost three-year-old daughter sees it as a personal affront if I do not spend every waking minute fixated on her. But I do talk on the phone a lot less. Gone are the marathon conversations with my girlfriends. They've been replaced with smiley faces in emails, uploaded images to online albums, and a status update. Not exactly fulfilling or deep or meaningful, but they get the job done.

Maybe it's because I'm so much more guarded about my time. If I have two hours at night, as a working parent, I might decide to (gasp!) do absolutely nothing, paint my toenails, or catch an episode of Top Chef rather than engage in a conversation with another adult.

Does this mean I'll lose my mojo? Sometimes I have flashbacks to entering the middle school cafeteria for the first time: Who will I sit with? What will I say? Am I even capable of sustaining a decent conversation?

My grand answer: I think so.

When I look at how I use social media now, it's not a substitute for an actual conversation, but rather a starting point. I can look at a friend's status about what a lousy day she's having or about something hilarious that his son said, and when I grab coffee or lunch with that person, follow up: "Hey, I saw your post about X. What's up with that?" I use IM to set up lunch dates with girlfriends or quickly ask when she might be home so I can call her.

Of course, this doesn't mean I won't worry about technology warping my daughter's social skills when she's old enough to stop pretending a banana is cell phone and ask for a real one.

This is an original DC Metro Moms post. EvonneY also blogs about navigating the fine balance between self, mother, and wife at Arlington Mama. PHOTO: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bengsoon/ / CC BY 2.0


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