Without question, one of the biggest things that planners agree on is the importance of social interaction to establish a stable community. But with the recent popularity of online social communities such as facebook, linked-in, and twitter, has our in-person social interaction suffered? Last week I saw a car commercial where a girl who was sitting at home, was commented how her parents are anti-social because they only had 19 “Friends” on facebook while she had 300. The then went to a video of her parents out mountain biking with their friends, while she was at a laptop commenting on a picture that a “friend” of hers posted. In essence, her parents were out living life on person where she had the risk of being “unfriended”. I remember when I was the age of the girl, I was out with my friends doing something. It was likely out doing something active.
I got chatting with a friend who was telling me about his son who is having troubles making friends but spends all of his time online. He joked that his son has 1200 facebook friends, but not one was able to hang out on a Friday night. It got me thinking more about the progression of technology over the years and how it has influenced relationships. Before telephones where popular, people would use social events to satisfy a need. This allowed the establishment of several close friends. Kids would walk down the street to see if their friends could come out and play. People got to know people and it created small tight knit communities within neighborhoods. Telephones started to change that. Kids would call friends and spend hours on the phone instead of in person. We would order stuff in a catalog on the phone. Then text messaging came up and now we have Facebook. I know a guy who is extremely proud of his farm on Farmville, but his lawn has not been mowed in weeks.
I think that social media online is not a bad thing, but I think it is a tool that can be used to supplement our in-person social interaction. I don’t think things will get to the level seen in the movie Surrogates, but I wonder at what point will our online relationships become more important than our in-person relationships.
Do you think that social media like Facebook has had a positive or negative impact on in-person relationships within communities? What do you think needs to be done to address this situation? That do you think that you can do about this situation?