online or offline, you decide

A feature I like in Facebook is the Minekey opinion gadget. Basically, someone poses a statement and asks if you agree or disagree. The % of agree / disagree to date are posted along with comments of the voters if they choose to comment and so add some meat to their dis/agreement. The latest one to pop in my email asks “No amount of social networking can ever substitute its real life counterpart”. Think about that one for a moment – is the person suggesting that Facebook (and equivalents) are inferior to offline social networking. If so, in what ways and to what extent?

Turns out that of the 7000+ facebookers who partook, a whopping 94% agreed!! And these are from people who facebook regularly (otherwise, they wouldn’t have bothered Minekeying). Some of the comments: “face 2 face is the best, but distance is the creator of the need!!!”, “You can pretend who you are and how you feel but you never know if your offending anyone or if anyone is lying unless you are face to face with them. Social networking is impersonal and awkward at times”, “its just a lazy way of communicating, unless you are speaking to people who are miles apart from you”, “but isnt social networking part of real life, so depends on person how do u take it, see it, manage it and share it to become part of life”, “But we can make our real life much easier through social networking”.

So, what does all that mean? The online method has inferiorities – devoid of the cues we take for granted in the offline world how can you be sure of how you are coming across, or if other people really are what they appear to be. But it has its plus sides – the distance of physical geography is not a problem. Others don’t see this online / offline divide as clear-cut. The virtual world is real and the people they met there are real people. Personally, this last one is the view that has proved positive for me. Many of my Facebook (and other SN) friends are real people I would never have met if the online world didn’t exist. Yes, I’ve also met some people I’d rather not have met but online they can be blocked, and it’s much easier to deploy avoidance strategies online than it is offline. Three cheers for online social networking and the people that make it what it is.

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Posted on November 16, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think as a compliment to face-to-face interaction, Facebook and other social networking sites work well. The problems start when it’s used as a substitute.

    Having said that, I’m sure the same argument was levelled at the telephone back in the day. What day? I don’t know. I’m pretty tired.

  2. too true, the telephone was supposed to sound the death knell to true communication but that didnt quite happen. Surely the more tools to communciate the better.

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