After a long day of work, after dinner’s been served, after the sun goes down, picture yourself wandering to a computer and logging onto one of those social networking Web sites such as Facebook or Twitter. For those who distance themselves from both, for a moment, pretend you don’t. You check your inbox to see if anyone has something worthwhile to say. Maybe there’s a party next week you’ve been invited to, who knows, but you get the idea.
Then you notice something. For whatever reason, you now have one fewer person on your list of friends. Instead of, say, 348, you now have 347. Apparently you have lost a friendship, or someone chose to stop following you. Given the chance that you actually notice, how would you feel?ÿ
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t care. In fact, this might be a good thing considering now there’s one fewer person to post completely irrelevant updates about his or her boring life on the front page of a Web site. But if you’re anything like Elaine Fogel, who was recently featured in an article I read on CNN.com last week, you might have some sort of angst accumulated over this traitor who didn’t see you as a worthy Internet friend.ÿ
When I began to read this article titled “Defriending can bruise your ‘digital ego,'” I initially thought about laughing. I mean, what kind of a person really takes his or her online image that seriously? I’ve always thought we should be more concerned with friends in the real world – people we can see and touch. Not a digital representation of someone who has formatted his or her profile to recreate him or herself however he or she would like to be perceived.ÿ
After seriously thinking about this, I may have begun to cringe. Is this really where we’re going with the whole social networking thing? Does anyone actually consider these “friends” on the Internet whom they’ve never met to have any sort of emotional attachment? I hope not, but judging from this even being a topic for discussion, I suppose it requires some analysis. That said, leave it to CNN to find a legitimate Purdue psychologist, Kip Williams, to chime in with his two cents on the matter.
“People tend to think that these relationships are trivial and not very deep, but this is what we’re moving towards, having a lot of our communications play out over the Internet,” Williams said.ÿ
Bravo, Kip. You’ve managed to say what everyone reading the story was already thinking, but at least the notion has been confirmed. Later in this article, we’re given some scientific hoopla explained by a brain specialist at UCLA why online rejection is a legitimate cause for emotional pain.
But I don’t buy it. Anyone who actually has his or her feelings hurt by losing followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook probably needs to step away from the monitor for a few days and readjust oneself to the real world. Besides, the concept of this “digital ego” is pretty dangerous, as it seems like a way for Internet users to further isolate themselves into their own reclusive little worlds.
Taking online relationships seriously seems to be just as absurd as a 4-year-old with an imaginary pet dinosaur in the closet. Sure, these people are real and in the flesh somewhere, and rejection can definitely hurt. But if two people are not close enough with each other to communicate by some means other than one of these networks, if that relationship will cease to exist after the click of a mouse, in most cases I’m pretty sure both parties can get over it without a second thought. If not, I think this would indicate some serious psychiatric and dependency issues.ÿ
And OK, sure, maybe I’m a little old-fashioned at my ripe old age of 23, but I tend to normally judge my friendships by character that cannot be translated via binary code. You may already know how hard it is to determine sarcasm or truth in an e-mail or text message.
I don’t mean that we need to entirely stop meeting people online and networking new connections to assist careers and information gathering. As that technology advances, I think we really need to try to understand different stages of relationships, on and offline, and in both cases not consider ourselves too cool to be rejected.
Garrison Ebie is a senior electronic media production major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]