Is Social Networking Screwing Up Our Lives?


Archbishop Vincent Nichols think Facebook might be degrading our interpersonal relationships.

If you're like us, being a few double-clicks away from all our cyberfriends is called "being awake." (Battery power withstanding) Facebook Decides To Control Your Love Life

Sure, we remember when AOL was just gaining momentum and we proudly flaunted our newly minted e-mail addresses. We remember rushing home to check the answering machine to see if our crush called and eagerly awaiting this newfangled thing called Instant Messaging. All to the serenading sound of dial-up, of course.

But now we don't even need to go out of our way to find out what our crush du jour is up to on Friday night. A few weekly pop-ins and we know what they wore to the beach, what they're reading and what kind of pizza they ate for lunch.

And it's not like we're being nosey. No, no. We're willingly told all these things. In a handy newsfeed headline manner, not too unlike reading about  the president's latest economic plan. Facebook Courtship Advice

So how could this possibly drive society apart? How could social networking, as Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently said, corrode our "interpersonal communication" to the point where we are unable to live together and build a community? A bit much, no?

In fact, we're expressing outrage at the mere thought of it right now to all our 400 friends. We're sure they'll agree. Some will leave comments and maybe shoot us a message or two, and then write on our wall (if we're lucky).

Which is precisely the Archbishop's point—we've grown so accustomed to this wordy, webby closeness that the sound of someone's laugh, or the faces they make when telling stories takes a backseat. Or no seat at all.

Sometimes we never even meet each other, which he thinks spells nothing but a disconnected mass of people who underneath they're fancy iPhones and brand new Macs, and 700 followers/friends/whatever are really just, well, lonely.

"Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanizes what is a very, very important part of community life and living together," he said. "They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate. But friendship is not a commodity. Friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right."

What? Accepting a friend request, tagging a photo and commenting on a status update thread isn't "hard work."

The archbishop's opinions make more sense once realized what they were in response to—a 15-year-old girl's suicide due to being bullied on some site called

To which we say, sure. Fine. Of course. Yes, whenever large groups of people mix (especially adolescents) the chance of bullying and not-so-nice behavior runs rampant.

But to say social networking leads to teenage suicide and social isolation would be like saying high schools should be shut down because of Columbine and real life Mean Girls. Sure, we've often wondered: are we going to turn into the crazy old cat woman who's only source of light is the glow from her laptop—but just to prove the Archbishop wrong we're going to ask out one of our cyber friends for coffee tomorrow.

But we aren't going to "poke." Poking is just lame. We defreind people who "poke."