We are not electronic beings

A new service called Usocial charges you about $200 (£125) to “buy” 1,000 new friends on Facebook and Twitter. Although the people who are being 'sold' don't realise it! Who is using this service?

“A woman in Detroit said she travels for business a lot,” said Leon Hill, uSocial’s chief executive. “She said she’ll be stuck in a hotel room without anyone close to her [this month]. She just wanted more people to keep in touch with during the holiday season.”

A man moved to Taiwan six months ago, although he intends to return home next year. “Living out here, in the area I live in, there’s very little interaction. Very few people speak much English.I want to know what’s going on. You can read news on the internet, but you get a better gist of what’s going on through people’s opinions and chatting.”

We are more connected than ever before yet young people are lonely and facebook only adds to the problem.

“Social networking has not helped because it is a remote contact. Some young people don’t have any real friends.“They are completely surrounded by people, but they can still be lonely because they are not able to make lasting bonds.”

Sue Palmer, author of a book, Detoxing Childhood, said: “It is reckoned that 10 per cent of communication is through language. The rest is reading faces, expressions, body language, establishing tone of voice.If children are not developing those skills, then that is worrying. We’re not electronic beings.”

I reluctantly joined facebook about a year ago. I set up an account as 'Redjotter' as I wanted to use it to connect to people for 'work, inspiration, networking et al'.  None of my family or 'real friends' who I see most days are my friends on  facebook. People laugh at me because of this but it just didn't feel right. Of course there is an overlap as many people I  'work' with have become very good friends.

This article makes me think of that scene from the movies when a lonely someone is standing outside in the cold peeking through the windows of a family home wishing they were part of it. It seems when some young people look at their 'facebook friends' it makes them feel the 'friends' are having more fun, visiting more exciting places and generally leading more exciting lives than they are and this can only lead to feelings of vulnerability.It is sad but seems to be as true as always.

Instead of focusing energy, talent on skills on ventures such as uSocial we should be thinking about how to make real conversation happen.

Talking family

This article from the NewYork Times is written by a mother who is hurt her children won't friend her on facebook. The author receives mixed feedback, I was really surprised by the number of parents who have joined facebook purely to keep tabs on their kids. I can't help thinking this is another example of technology eating away at our relationships and fundamental social skills. Surely if you have a good relationship with your children and frequent conversations...facebook should be the least of parents worry?

The comments got me thinking about family life: a core aspect of life which is being explored at Participle. I often think about how tough it must be to be a parent and a friend at the same time. Trust is developed over years and a cherished part of any relationship...parents shouldn't be spying on thier kids online?!

However, my thoughts trail to the positive when I discover a reader is friends with his 87 year old grandfather on facebook...

Another interesting one "Not on Call", the author, Lisa Belkin, discussing one of the many disconcerting parts of raising a teen, is that your home phone doesn’t ring. In my teens, the phone ringing and mum getting to chat to the caller for the four seconds it took me to fly downstairs was important. It was an insight into my social circle.

Boys in their twenty-somethings are the last generation who will have to call a house phone to talk to a girl, coping with the fear that her dad may answer...when my dad was younger the phone box across from their house rang and the 'picker-upper' chapped their front door. Back then, everyone in the street could monitor your social life.

With all this in mind I am alarmed at the autors revelation:

"My children talk with their fingers."

A great blog overall!