April 16, 2012

Journalist discovers that Facebook doesn't cause loneliness



Theorizing about Facebook's effect on society must sell magazines. In The Atlantic this month Stephen Marche's cover story, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?," is about loneliness in general, not Facebook in particular. Describing himself as a Facebook lurker rather than an active user, Marche's Facebook link at the end of the story leads to a Public Figure page (pictured above) with 81 followers, and he doesn't seem to have a personal page, so how much can he really know about Facebook?

After talking with experts, none of whom confirm his outlandish proposition that Facebook may cause loneliness, Marche concludes that, OK, Facebook use may not cause loneliness, but it has changed the nature of solitude. Here it is, after nearly five thousand words: "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 denies us a pleasure whose profundity we had underestimated: the chance to forget about ourselves for a while, the chance to disconnect."

I suppose there's a grain of truth here about the changing nature of solitude (not loneliness), but does it really warrant a 5000-word cover story from someone who clearly doesn't like Facebook and doesn't want anyone else to like it either? Writing about solitude rather than loneliness would have been a more interesting direction.

Related posts:
Free Love: Why artists are drawn to social networking
The artworld on Facebook: A primer



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2 comments:

Facebook is a vehicle of excuse for some, but to blame it for reduction of real life social interaction or loneliness is a bit of a nowist self delusion and fib. Books, telephone, radio, television were blamed for this too.

Connecting with others via social networking sites isn't really what I'd call solitude. Most people have trouble with periods of solitude; Facebook provides distraction from it. Enjoying real solitude means reflecting and observing. (You can enjoy solitude while sitting in a coffee shop, for example.) I think the Atlantic writer should have written about society's need for constant distraction.

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