A friend shared this article and video on Facebook today. In a nutshell, it goes through the innovation of loneliness and how in today's connected world, the more connected we are, the more lonely we are. http://vimeo.com/70534716
When I get connected with people online, more often than not, I get comments about the number of friends/followers/likes/connections I have. I usually laugh it off and say, "I just have a really good memory. And I've lived in a few different places and I'm usually on the more active side when it comes to getting out and meeting people. And did I mention that my job involves social media? (Even though we're usually talking about my personal accounts, I have some work connections there as well.)" I had one friend, an actuary, who was so amazed by the number of people that I know online, that he actually calculated how many people I connect with on a daily basis using some fancy schmancy formula.
But I take it all with a grain of salt. Do I have a large online network? Sure. Do I have a lot of friends? That depends who you're comparing it to, but for the most part I'd say I know a lot of people and am friendly with a lot of people, but I have a smaller group of good friends. I do have a bunch of acquaintances too, but I don't think of them as acquaintances. Do we talk on a regular basis? Probably not. But we're friendly. I could probably tell you a personal story about them and wouldn't have a problem reaching out to them. (Especially if you're in my phone. I do a pretty good job of cleaning out my phone--if I can't call or text you just to say hi, chances that your number will stay in my phone for too long are slim. I pocket dial way too often for that.)
In person connections and experiences will always top our list, when they're with the right people. I'll take a nice long email from one of my best friends over running into that guy that I met once but we started following each other on Instagram any day, wouldn't you? We live in a society where using our phones non-stop or checking in online isn't just easy, it's become a bit of a norm. In my opinion, technology is a great way to start a conversation or get connected to someone; it's also a great way to supplement a relationship, but it shouldn't become the only way you connect with someone or replace any of the real-time conversations you can have. Think back to your birthday 10 years ago--how did people wish you a happy birthday back then? Over the years I've found that the number of phone calls has virtually ceased but the number of Facebook notifications has sky rocketed. That's not ok. My personal take is if I have your phone number, you'll get a call or at least a text from me on your birthday. If I have your email, and we're close enough, I'll send you an email. And if Facebook is the best way for me to get in touch with you, I'll write on your wall or send you a message. But my ideal--my ideal is to see you or send you a card. (Told you I love snail mail!) If anything, birthdays are when I look at names and think, "Who is this person again?" Online connections shouldn't outweigh real time in person connections. Last year, I remember going out with a bunch of friends who I hadn't seen in a long time and having a blast. To explain how much fun I had to another friend, I put it in terms we can all probably understand, "I only looked at my phone twice the entire night. From 10pm - 4am." Two times! That's a long time to go without checking my phone, especially since there were several instances where I was left alone.
Going back to the video and article, I do believe that the more connected we are online, the more lonely we are but I don't think the number of connections you have tells a story on its own, it's about the quality of those connections and how you connect with them. The video made me think of the person who is surrounded by people all the time but still feels lonely or hasn't connected with someone on a deeper level. There have been recent articles and studies that show how social networks can actually have a negative impact on us and I think we can all see why--but doesn't everything have its good and bad sides? I don't think we're going to all deactivate our accounts on account of this but I do think it urges us to think more carefully about what we see people share online, how we react to it and how we connect online.