Why Facebook and MySpace just don't cut it

Andy Rau

There have been many essays and posts in recent years about social networking and its relationship to real, face-to-face community. I think there's a commonly-held perception that relationships carried out entirely online--through blogs, instant messenger, social networks like Myspace, etc.--are lacking in some important but hard-to-define way. In Requiem for Holy Moments (Why I Refuse to Join Facebook), Brett McCracken at Relevant Magazine tries to nail down the source of this unease:
The problem with the Facebook/Myspace community is that it lives in cheap abundance, not invaluable scarcity. It provides the illusion that by being constantly in touch with a person, you can know them more; that by accepting a “friend request,” you have made a real life, human connection. You haven’t. Facebook allows us to have a broad network of “contacts,” but contacts are not humans (as Francois in My Best Friend comes to understand; as Voldemort in Harry Potter understands but scoffs at). Digital “friends” feel more useful than they do holy. Avatars can never compare to the real, precious physicality of a human being, just as the connections on “Face” book cannot compare to what is possible in actual face-to-face, soul-to-soul communication.
Among other things, he notes that the scarcity of true, quality face-to-face time with other human beings is an important part of making those moments of interaction so meaningful. When we're interacting constantly with other people on Facebook or MySpace, we're settling for quantity of interaction over quality.

I think McCracken's onto something. I think that social networking and other internet communication tools are a great thing, but they're best understood as a supplement to real, meaningful human interaction. I bet most of us wouldn't trade a week spent face-to-face with a close friend for a year's worth of Facebook updates. I particularly like McCracken's emphasis on the spiritual aspect of human relationships--something that doesn't quite come across online.

Thoughts? Any MySpace/Facebook users want to take exception to the article?

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