A question posed to me recently was whether or not participating in social media networks has an affect on you becoming more or less social. Does social media hurt your “real social life”? An interesting topic to consider, I shared my thoughts as a source for Conversations about socialization – How social networking online translates offline by Emily Clark, posted on CJconnect.ca.
This question intrigued me. As a source, my perspective was direct and straight to the point. However with a question like this, there is always more to my answer than what could be written about in someone else’s piece. So that is what I will do now.
In short, my answer was no. I do not believe social media encourages you to become more anti-social. Even if by the vary nature of the phrase “social media”, where the phrase itself contains the word “social”. So for the opposite argument to be true, it would have to be based on an assumption that socializing online is different than in person face-to-face real life interaction. Here the argument moves toward a definition of the word: social. My definition is whenever interaction occurs. (And this is why I believe every aspect of your entire life is, in fact, social – you interact with everything around you. Being social is not a choice we have.)
The original assumption challenges the idea that relationships formed online are real and authentic. I believe if a relationship isn’t real and lacks authenticity, it is not a fault of the platform, but the individual(s). I believe people should always strive for authenticity in all of their interactions. And at Kingpin Social, this is our aim. This is the direction we push our students to pursue. I also believe who you are is who you are, and that will come across both online and offline. If you are anti-social in real life you will likely be anti-social online. If you have a glowing personality the same will also be true. To add on further, people who hold out on participating in social media networks are viewed as weirdly unsocial.
Where Online Interaction Wins
As a young teenager I spent a great deal of time online playing video games and exploring the wide ranges of the Internet. This led me to interact with many interesting individuals, and through commonalities I discovered a passion for digital art. The amount of time I spent playing video games quickly dwindled as the majority of my time was now being spent on deviantART, an online community of artists uploading their work, browsing other artists’ portfolios, giving each other feedback, encouragement, and even at times tough love. This community didn’t merely focus on art though; it was a community in all of its best forms as well. The community had groups to find a mentor – a big brother of sorts. It also had a group run by a great friend of mine named Amy (or dualdesigns online) called Circle of Friends, where the members “will readily offer any type of support, and friendship to people on deviantART that are having problems and might need to talk to someone.”
Whatever your passions may be, a quick search online will yield you with countless communities you can join to find advice and further your craft or simply to find other like-minded people. Many of my current best “real life” friends I met through these types of communities. I can’t say with any certainty whether I would have found these groups if they weren’t online. Regardless of your preference to spend time online or offline, the key is authenticity. If you aren’t being real, genuine and authentic in all of your social interactions – online and offline – you aren’t going to be able to capitalize on the opportunities both present. Both are great for all types of social interaction, and neither make you more or less social/anti social.