Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
an article in The Atlantic (2012) by Stephen Marche
(our site's article review)
This connection between loneliness and Facebook is a provocative one. Some feel it makes them lonely since the connections with others is too superficial. Others feel it makes them less lonely since they have so many friends to interact with. Marche says that research shows that “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are, but the greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.”
Many feel that we don’t gain or lose real, close friends on Facebook. When we sign up, we tend to bring these close friends with us, so being on Facebook makes us less lonely if we are popular. If we are lonely and without friends when we sign up, then more online action will spell more loneliness. Marche’s article stresses that Facebook doesn’t “make” you anything. We choose. If we choose superficiality, we are likely to feel lonely. If we make deeper connections, we are not likely to feel lonely. If we are lonely and without friends, but join to find friends to become IRL F2F friends with (real, not cyber), we can very well end up less lonely.
Lonely young man
The author notes that “It may be that Facebook encourages more contact with people outside of our household, at the expense of our family relationships—or it may be that people who have unhappy family relationships in the first place seek companionship through other means, including Facebook.”
In such a case, imparting morals and values from parent to child in close families may not occur, but parents may get replaced by peer groups and media so that Mother Media and Papa Peer-Group take over the values and morals imparting task. Since the media are profit-motivated, not morals-motivated, this does not bode well for our young. Peer groups usually get their values directly from the media. Or kids get values from peers who got those values from media. As a result, kids want to buy, buy, buy, and get, get, get, and take, take, take, but not much give, give, give. The only reason the media would want to push that value is so kids buy first, give second (as a gift, for example). See Your Children Are Under Attack and Media Sexploitation and Technology and Media on our Articles page.
Facebook is all about self-presenting. We present ourselves as active, happy, and as winners, regardless of the facts. We want to be popular, so we show a side of ourselves that others will want to meet, to know, to “friend,” and to like. But how much of who we really are is lost when we aim for so much indirect self acceptance (like in The Adjusted American), following the other-directed (like in The Lonely Crowd) motivations of craving peer acceptance?
Isn’t REAL communication telling others how we REALLY feel, rather than presenting ourselves as how we expect others want us to be? Loneliness is all but guaranteed if we present a false picture of ourselves. But for REAL friends, we share REAL feelings (hopefully) and end up less lonely in the process. Facebook can and does support real self-presenting and false self-presenting as well. Like we say, we CHOOSE. Facebook merely empowers and magnifies that choice. Magnification refers to your online communications being there for dozens and even hundreds of others to see, be they real or false.
Of course, those of us who are armed with basic psychological knowledge know that the genesis of false self creation begins much earlier than the facade one generates to cope with the demands of social networking pressures.
Parents set up caregiving so that kids exploring things will precipitate lots of "No!" reprimands, not realizing that this is incorrect parenting. Spaces where caregiving will occur need to be childproofed so that things the kids should avoid will be out of reach, and things that are appropriate for kids to experiment with (some of which need to be educational like in Montessori schools) are in easy reach.
The caregiver needs to be willing to clean up the disarray once the kids are finished, but as soon as it is age-appropriate, the kids can share in the straightening up. Caregivers can make it a game, a song, a challenge, or a poem, but there should be no "rewards" for completion or helping. The correct context is to avoid rewards-and-punishments behaviorism entirely but instead let the kids know that a story can be read next but "I'd find it too difficult to read at the same time I was helping straighten up, so I need to wait until we're through." Rather than a reward context, there's a logic context where it makes sense to the kids to only do one thing at a time. And there's a natural consequences context as well: the consequence of getting things cleaned up is that the story is now realistic.
But more normal caregiving carelessly allows kids into adult spaces where most exploring gets a negative response, after which there is whining, begging, threats, use of the B word ("bad"), and finally a swat on the rear or a timeout or some other punishment like preventing the kids from playing with their favorite toys. This isn't childraising. It's botching a simple task due to ignorance and laziness. How hard is it to read a decent childcare book and follow well-thought-out advice? This ain't rocket science, folks!
The main point here is that all this caregiving bungling is emotionally abusive of the kids' feelings and it makes the kids start defining themselves negatively. "I am bad, unacceptable, unloveable—there must be something wrong with me—why doesn't [caregiver] like me? Maybe I'm just not likeable!" Negative self talk becomes an ingrained habit, accompanied by low self-esteem.
And then the kids become preteens and teens and hit the social networking scene. OOPS! As you can see, the kids have been set up for needing to set up a facade. The caregivers hadn't seemed to like or accept the kids that much when they were younger so they developed false selves. But encountering the challenges of social networking now adds insult to injury. Seeking indirect self acceptance and becoming other-directed is a given. So is loneliness, since so much that's real in these young people is buried. They don't know who they are or how they feel. So they let the forces of conformity to media and peer pressures run their social lives. They are at effect. Desperately frantic texting, obsessive posting, rampant escapism—it's not pretty. The wonder is that anyone avoids loneliness on Facebook. And you can see how difficult it will be for these normally raised kids to develop a good self image and a healthy, secure identity.
If Facebook is all about self-presenting, you'll learn how to be a fake you; but where is the REAL you?! Here you see fake generosity.
Fake smile, learned during self-presenting on Facebook when a profile photo was needed—there are even people who use photos that aren't even their own!
If Facebook is all about self-presenting, you'll get good phoniness training for a career in politics: who wants to be the next Obama or Bush? These kids are primed and ready to lie to our faces, since their values are about making impressions and seeming sincere, not honesty.
The author says that what isn’t being served by Facebook is everything that matters. “What Facebook has revealed about human nature—and this is not a minor revelation—is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity. Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-reinvention. But now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are.” Facebook is a Recipe for self-centeredness, not self-actualization. We get so busy with trying to present a happy face to the world that we lose any reason for it to actually be a happy face.
Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds
Marche says that Social networking websites—from Facebook to LinkedIn to MySpace to Twitter—have made us more completely networked than ever before. And yet, for all our connectivity, a lot of new research suggests that we have never been lonelier, and that we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We’ve never been more detached from one another than we are now, and we have never been lonelier. “In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society.”
Facebook and Twitter icons
Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-reinvention, but now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are
This brings up several questions not in his eloquent, smart, thorough, informative, well-researched article:
Do we have community, or merely society?
Do our cybercommunities substitute for real communities completely, somewhat, or not at all?
Are the functions of real community still being addressed?
Is there political clout in our real communities, or our cybercommunities?
Does any of this power influence the local, state, or national political reality, or is our dream of a representational democracy merely a pretty dream and fond memory?
Are the socializing influences of communities still active or have they been replaced by cybercommunities?
Last question first. Are the socializing influences of communities still active or have they been replaced by cybercommunities? Some real communities still function somewhat, but many do not, and probably none in this country (except maybe Quakers and a few other sects?) function like they did in the 19th century, with respect for elders, everyone pulling together for collective survival, and adults having a critical and omnipresent role in imparting morals and values on the young. These days, respect for elders is mostly a memory and most values are imparted from media and peer groups, and occasionally a value or two gets passed on to our young in schools—but only from unusually good teachers. We surely do not want or need to return to the real communities and families of yesteryear dominated by patriarchal, sexist, racist, authoritarian values and an obsession with guilt, obedience and punishments. This way of life had a purpose in the days when obeying a father who was telling you to help bring in the harvest was part of what made families and communities survive. But that was then. This is now.
So why do we still need communities? In a nutshell, they're entities that confer both rights and responsibilities. Neither human existence nor individual liberty can be sustained for long outside the interdependent and overlapping communities to which all of us belong, so to preserve our rights, we must avoid the exclusive pursuit of private interest, which erodes the network of social environments on which we all depend, and corrodes democratic self-government. So the preservation of individual liberty depends on maintaining the institutions of civil society where citizens learn respect for others as well as self-respect as they participate in civil society. See Why Do We Need Communities?.
We could no more VOTE to go back to when elected officials were acting in the public interest than we could teach pigs to fly
Perhaps it hasn’t escaped your attention that America is now full of self-centered people, with those in power driven by greed, guided by special interests rather than public ones, and following a lifestyle that is nothing if not an unabashed quest for power. Bye-bye democracy, hello oligarchy. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.) We didn’t choose this, but they didn’t seize power by force—we LET them wrest it from us, pretending that voting booths are our sole civic duty. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance—which we are NOT manifesting. We let special interests buy legislators and corrupt the system, so we couldn’t VOTE to go back to when elected officials were acting in the public interest any more than we could teach pigs to fly. It is too late. See Who Will Tell the People? and Supercapitalism.
We conveniently pretend that voting booths are our sole civic duty. Bye-bye democracy!
Maybe you’ve noticed that parents are so busy at work just to make ends meet that they allow media, peers, and teachers to become value imparters, even though they only desire the latter and then only from some of the teachers. The nonfamily entities like media and peers pass on values by default, many of them not in the society’s, family’s, community’s, or children’s best interest.
The best place to start ameliorating any of this social degeneration is via community strengthening (which will at least give a slight chance for renewing democracy and a big chance for influencing our kids’ values) starting in the home, in the family. We must insist once again, on this website, that bringing children into the world entails a moral responsibility to provide, not only material necessities, but also moral education and character formation, a task not to be delegated to babysitters, or even professional child-care centers. It requires close bonding of the kind that typically is formed only with parents or other close, loving, available caregivers, which only happens sometimes, in our culture.
If you know of a way to protect kids from the ever-present morally corrupting influences of media (which teaches responsibilities shirking, lack of respect, problem solving via violence, greed, lack of compassion, mere cybercommunity values but no community/civic values, and materialism to the point of frantic obsession), feel free to write us about this newfound miracle. If not, read on:
Answers to the other questions:
Do we have community, or merely society? We still have both community and society, but we are evolving toward a sad, dysfunctional situation where we have only the latter, except for cybercommunities, which we have in abundance.
Do our cybercommunities substitute for real communities completely, somewhat, or not at all? Our cybercommunities substitute for real communities somewhat, but in what way? Tons of values are going from media and peer groups to children’s minds, with little if any parental intermediaries. Parents cannot stop much of the inflow of influences, but they can take the time to get involved and become intermediaries, questioning and adding fresh insights to destructive value influences. The 2008 election proved that political purposes could be served via cybercommunities in a big way, much to the chagrin of the millions of us wanting Hillary. We like the Net for national politics better than campaigners interrupting us to try to twist our arms to vote for their candidate. But for most civic duties relating to politics at other levels, cybercommunities cannot replace real communities.
The 2008 election proved that political purposes could be served via cybercommunities in a big way, much to the chagrin of the millions of us wanting Hillary
Are the functions of real community still being addressed? Only to a small degree. Individual liberty cannot be sustained for long outside the interdependent and overlapping communities to which all of us belong, and since Bush began the erosion of our rights and Obama increased this erosion (“for our own good”), there's been no mass movement to restore them, just isolated articles in the media. A nation full of strong communities could have responded more wisely and responsibly. The passing on of values may happen in churches, and to a small degree in schools, and even in some strong families, but, by and large, most families’ values imparting (as well as churches’ and schools’ values imparting) is so upstaged, overwhelmed, and drowned out by media and peer group influences that this community function has been virtually usurped. In essence, communities, as they are now structured and as they now function, cannot hope to compete with the incessant hum and howl of the 24/7 media solicitation saturating our kids’ every waking moments. A serious rethinking of how to create a workable community, that actually does what communities are intended to do, is in order. This website has that rethinking. Look for yourself. Not claiming to have all the answers, we are claiming to at least have The Big Answer.
Is there political clout in our real communities, or our cybercommunities? At the local level, yes—communities have clout for local issues, unless corporations buy influence and taint the process. At the state level, yes—communities have clout for state issues, unless corporations buy influence and taint the process. At the national level, very little has clout of any kind except big corporations—including big media corporations. Communities, like individuals, have been permanently(?) benched in the game of national politics. The illusion of choice is a farce, a ploy, a scam, and a psychological manipulation, since the two parties are both just supporting flunkies for the big corporations, and other parties beyond flunkies are not really allowed to play the game since the big corporations are hardly likely to act against their own interests.
Does any of this power influence the local, state, or national political reality, or is our dream of a representational democracy merely a pretty dream and fond memory? Answered above, except for the latter. We still have a gloriously functioning REPRESENTATIONAL DEMOCRACY. That’s the good news. The bad news is who it is our political representatives represent. It ain't you, baby. It ain't me, either. Nor is it your mammy nor your pappy nor the little old lady who lives down the lane. These representatives use the same life philosophy as most other Americans: “Show me ‘da money!” And the corporations do exactly that, but you and I cannot afford to do it. SCORE: corporations 1, the public zero. Oops—we lose!
No matter how we pretend otherwise, the political reality is hogs at the money trough
It was up to alert Americans to never let laws get passed that let corporations be able to contribute to politicians or their campaigns. We didn’t. It was up to us to make it a crime for lobbyists to mention $, contribute $ or favors, or do anything else besides stating what their cause is, who is backing it, and why passing so and so law is good for the public and the environment and the future. Promising anything would also be illegal. But we blew that as well. Now that corruption runs the show, how exactly can us asleep-at-the-switch Americans ever hope to change this big ugly farce back into something like a democracy? This is sort of like the Roach Motel where roaches check in but cannot check out. We are the roaches that checked in to this corrupt mess but now there's no way out of this mess. Like a Maine joke: “ . . . you can't get there from here.” See The Responsive Communitarian Platform.
Special interests cough up lots of money and buy the policies they want and the candidates they want. This was made very easy by the recent (2014) Supreme Court ruling. After the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United case, the movement of the US towards a corporatocracy is complete.
As communities falter and the Corporatocracy gains power, Democracy takes it on the chin
There is a huge problem with getting normal communities to function the way good, dynamic, well-functioning communities should. The family is the core unit of community, and almost all American families are dysfunctional and are poor at nurturing young, imparting values and morals, and teaching the values of community—both the rights and the responsibilities. We cannot renew community from a dysfunctional core.
Another big issue is that Americans are weaned on heroic individualism myths and “what's in it for me?” values. This keeps them obsessively self-reliant so they never need their neighbor or anyone else in the community, so they rarely reach out for help except for babysitting help. It also makes them put a monetary value on loving, nurturing care of their kids, as if loving care could really be bought and sold.
Americans are weaned on heroic individualism myths that thwart community
Admittedly, use of a babysitting co-op, where moms that cannot afford to purchase childcare rely on one another in the spirit of community, is a much better idea than having a drunk or senile relative care for a kid, or letting him join the ranks of the latchkey kids. However, this will rarely result in high quality nurturing that educates and imparts the best of values and morals that all mothers in the co-op agree on. Since when will a bunch of mothers who happen to live near each other be able to agree on the values and morals to impart to the kids? For example, most mothers reward and punish and spank, regardless of the fact that a caregiver that knew his/her ass from a hole in the ground would never even consider ANY of these bad parenting ideas. He/she would know that uninvolved or permissive or authoritarian parenting is BAD parenting, and only authoritative/democratic parenting is good and proven so beyond the slightest doubt, study after study, parent after parent, year after year, whether Authoritative (with logical consequences) or Authoritative Lite (without logical consequences).
And will this babysitting co-op experience really be the inspiringly, creative educational experience the kids need? Mothers have no such training. Regardless, babysitting co-ops beat hiring teenage babysitters or sticking kids in anything but the best daycare or homecare settings. What about choice? Will the child be able to have a few choices about who the caregiver is, or be stuck with a caregiver whether he likes it or not?
Babysitting co-ops beat hiring teenage babysitters or sticking kids in anything but the best daycare or homecare settings, but they aren't nearly as good as MCs
In order to give kids pro-community, cooperative, win-win values compatible with responsive community, they need to be nurtured not just in a loving family but in an MC (microcommunity).
So what are MCs like?
And what do MCs look like?
And what wisdom supports the MC idea?.
If there's a chance to renew community and renew democracy, this is it. If there's a way to renew your family's happiness, effectiveness, nurturing qualities, and general quality of life while saving you money as well as giving you the best friends you’ve ever had right next door (not a half hour’s commute away, so they may as well be in China), this is it.
But what about cyberspace and cybercommunity? Research has shown that people entering Facebook with good friends get these relationships empowered even more via their use of the Internet. But Facebook isn't as effective or efficient at doing this as personal status boards (PSBs). Living in an MC and using PSBs to keep in touch is the best of real community and cybercommunity integrated together in a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. A whole representing nothing less than social evolution!
So, are we hinting at abandoning Facebook? Not at all! Have fun updating, chatting, posting or checking comments on walls, doing status updates, locating friends, dealing with videos, fans, following, favoriting, posting pictures, browsing friends’ photos, adding blog feeds and RSS feeds and links to articles, promoting businesses, playing online games, connecting with co-workers, sending friend requests, posting events and news, using apps like polls and Facebook for WordPress, using Notes as a blogging platform, etc.
Living in an MC and using PSBs to keep in touch is the best of real community and cybercommunity integrated together
Our PSBs are not aiming to accomplish any of these—use Facebook for these. See PSB™ or Facebook for Friends Status Checking to see what PSBs are for and why their goal is radically different and much more focused than the chaotic attempt of Facebook to “be all things to all people.” And because the goal of PSBs is so focused and precise, they are a much better place to accomplish it than Facebook ever was or ever will be. See a Comparison of Various Social Communication Methods to see what we mean.
Note: Facebook has some cause for concern. For example, by 2013, 28% of users say the social network has become less important to them than it was a year ago, and 34% say the amount of time they are spending on Facebook has decreased over the past year. And in a new research report, entitled Coming and going on Facebook, Pew Research Center shines a light on a sense of dissatisfaction some Facebookers feel towards the network that has caused them to cut back the amount of time spend on the site or abandon it altogether. Perhaps they're finding lower quality relationships boring. (Took them long enough!) Also, Teens Are Leaving Facebook And This is Where They Are Going says many teens are losing interest in Facebook and are heading to places like Snapchat instead.
How Social Isolation Is Killing Us, by Dhruv Khullar, on Dec. 22, 2016, in the New York Times, says that "A great paradox of our hyper-connected digital age is that we seem to be drifting apart. Increasingly, however, research confirms our deepest intuition: Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being. It’s up to all of us — doctors, patients, neighborhoods and communities — to maintain bonds where they’re fading, and create ones where they haven’t existed." He gives statistics that show how twice as many people feel lonely as they did in the 1980s, and Facebook did not exist then. Perhaps one can conclude that Facebook IS helping us to become lonelier. This website—and MCs—are the obvious cure.
Pew shines a light on many Facebook users' unhappiness with the network; some use it less and others quit it entirely; maybe they're bored with lower quality relationships