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The Big Answer


To link to this article from your blog or webpage, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage.

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters

a book by Bill Tancer

(our site's book review)

Tancer poses the question: “Isn't this technology, which has so much potential to bring us together as a society by improving our communication, in some cases actually isolating us? If we continue on the path of relying more on technology to help us answer the basic questions about why we fear things, how to get things done, and how to relate to other individuals, we will continue to drift farther apart.”

This assessment is iffy at best. Sometimes our friends will give us good technical and relationship advice, other times it will be lousy, misinformed, disingenuous, ignorant and biased. The same can be said about the Internet. However, our friends’ knowledge is very limited. The Internet has few such limits compared to people we know. If a person is good at using search engines, he’ll simply get better info online. It’s only when one asks specifically personal questions about people that the person being asked—if he's very familiar with the person being asked about—will outshine the Internet in both quantity (unless he's famous) and quality of info, even if some of the impressions are slanted, or, more kindly, subjective. After all, we all have our own personal perspective on people, things, ideas, events, etc., but the Internet just rakes up a disorganized aggregation of facts and opinions about a person when asked, which is more valuable for background checks than learning the true nature of a specific human being.

Many of the young people being isolated because of how cliques work in modern high and middle schools are making lots of friends online, so, for them, the Internet is the ultimate DE-isolator. Conversely, many other people who need real human contact f2f and irl will, because of being shy and timid, avoid taking the chance of rejection and use the Internet as a way of avoiding the risk of personal contact. Happily, however, in spite of the original motivation for going online, many of these relationship avoiders end up finding e-friends with common interests online and they leverage these e-friendships into offline relationships once their rejection fears have been quelled.

Finding e-friends with common interests online
Finding e-friends with common interests online

These realities hardly fit the prediction Tancer gives about people relying on technology to help them answer the basic questions about life which mysteriously makes them "drift farther apart.” The Internet both separates and connects us—it depends on how it is used. See Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? to see whether Facebook separates or connects us or just wastes our time as it rubs ads in our face. Or all three!

The unfortunate self-presentation tendency Facebook encourages: a false self
The unfortunate self-presentation tendency Facebook encourages: a false self

It’s actually parenting and demographic trends, not Facebook, that are most responsible for keeping people so ready to be alone, single, and apart. Kids being given TVs, cell phones, Xboxes, cars, tennis lessons, etc., in place of the nurturing attention they need from caregivers who love them deeply—these kids are learning to be consumers, materialists, and people who see things from the context of technology—from a cyber-context, if you will. The parents, who both need to work due to economic necessity, have responsibly made sure that someone “watches” the children. But is someone “watching” a legitimate replacement for “caregivers who love them deeply”? Hardly.

Making sure that someone 'watches' the children often leads to TV-as-babysitter—the easy way to 'watch' kids
Making sure that someone 'watches' the children often leads to TV-as-babysitter—the easy way to 'watch' kids

When real needs go unfilled, false “needs” are created by corporations and media. The former are all too happy to collude in this sleight-of-hand. It makes their stockholders quiver with delight. The latter are also tickled to death to be accomplices in this emotional theft and relationship robbery, not only because of the huge web of connections between stuff-selling corporations and media corporations, but because if there were no technological things in this world, exactly what would the media be flapdoodling about all day long and how would they even get their messages to the masses? It would be a bit difficult with no radios, TVs, computers, and print media!

Those raised with things as a partial replacement for their relationship needs often choose materialist pursuits over deep relationships
Those raised with things as a partial replacement for their relationship needs often choose materialist pursuits over deep relationships


Those raised with things as a partial replacement for their relationship needs often choose chasing dollars over deep relationships
Those raised with things as a partial replacement for their relationship needs often choose chasing dollars over deep relationships


41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends
41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends

Demographic trends show clearly that people are more and more avoiding commitment, avoiding marriage, and finding it easy and comfortable to simply live alone, although sometimes with a lover or roommate. See First Person Singular: Living the good life alone. There are plenty of other factors at work, of course, many of them too obvious to touch on. But the fact remains that those raised with things as a partial replacement for their relationship needs often choose chasing dollars and materialist pursuits over deep relationships, preferring cyber-relationships if and when they have time. If it wasn’t for sex, would there be any real need for irl and f2f relating at all, except for work? (If you are not sure of the answer, run—don't walk—to the nearest therapist, and if s/he doesn't know either, we're all in deep doo-doo!) And now with vibrators and phone sex, well . . . you get the idea!

If it wasn’t for sex, would there be any real need for irl and f2f relating at all, except for work?
If it wasn’t for sex, would there be any real need for irl and f2f relating at all, except for work?

Tancer shows how the Internet itself is affecting the way we experience the world. This is not world-shaking stuff. It’s only Internet research, so look elsewhere if you are looking for something mind-blowing or profound. That said, Tancer, as the book tells us, “demonstrates how the Internet is changing the way we absorb information and how understanding that change can be used to our advantage in business and in life. Click analyzes the new generation of consumerism in a way no other book has before, showing how we use the Internet, and how those trends provide a wealth of market research nearly as vast as the Internet itself.” People like political pollsters and marketing managers will find the book very useful. Others will find some interesting trends, facts, and data, but that’s about it.