Sunday, December 26, 2010

Social Network -Disconnection or Interconnectedness?

I've posted before about feeling disconnected in a virtual world.  Do online connections and social networking help us feel more connected, or are we just turning into robots staring at flickering machines?

Several experiences brought new light to the question.  A Facebook connection brought me instantly closer to a distant friend, and two views of social networking and the digital age shed light on how we really can use technology for building relationships.

A recent connection via Facebook caught my attention.  A friend I'm not close to in everyday life wrote a post on a personal struggle she experienced and it touched me.  I reached out and we discussed intimate challenges in a way we never had before. 

I recognized if it weren't for timing, that connection wouldn't have been made.  Sure you may have 500 friends posting status updates everyday, but you don't see them all due to the timing of your connection with your friends online.  Could there be some serendipity to whose updates you see?    In a world where we can feel isolated, we can seize these digital connections and help real relationships grow.

A recent NY Times piece highlights that perhaps Facebook isn't so foreign from our day-to-day friendships after all.  While we can have 500 or 1000 friends on Facebook, Robin Dunbar points out the average is still close to 150.  It may be an illusion that we have more, superficial friendships and connections in a digital world, when in fact tools like Facebook merely connect us better with existing friends and communities.

The film Connected is featured at Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and looks to speak to these issues in a new way.  Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain points out we can acknowledge the world's interconnectedness, declare our interdependence and use our world of technology for good.  Connected also seeks to engage viewers and use the film for positive social impact.  Instead of viewing everyday life and digital interactions as juxtaposed or foreign from one another, the project invites us to use technology to deepen our connections.

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