I deactivated my Facebook and Foursquare accounts a couple weeks ago. Thus far, only two of my friends have noticed (or at least cared enough to say anything about it). I haven’t yet been able to kill my Twitter account, because I think the total isolation that would bring on would kill me … at the very least, it would crush my soul.
This rather depressing fact has got me thinking about virtual relationships vs. actual, real-life relationships.
The first, biggest difference I’ve noticed is that social network relationships (such as those on Facebook and Twitter) tend to be very superficial. Even when you’ve had lengthy “friendships” with someone online, the real bonds that tie people together are missing … and when someone takes a break or goes missing for whatever reason, you tend to just move on to someone (or mire often, several someones) else.
I’ve also noticed that people who tend to have problems connecting to other people in real life tend to be the ones who gravitate to social networks the most. Nowhere is this more evident than at those events known as “tweet-ups”, wherein a group of people who are connected on Twitter meet up in real life. In my experience, at the vast majority of these events, most if not all of the participants spend more time on their handhelds documenting the event rather than actually actively participating in it by interacting with the other people sitting next to or across from them. I’ve gotten to the point where I force myself to keep my phone in my pocket so that I am more able to connect with others rather than perpetuating the disconnect.
I have to admit that I am not the best at maintaining relationships with people, something I have regretted for most of my adult life, and which I am actively trying to change. I want people in my life, not pixels. The first step, I think, will be to actually start using my minutes on my phone and talking to my friends, rather than just emailing or texting them. The next step will be to actually go out … and since invitations aren’t flying my way, this means I will have to make an effort to plan things and see people instead of waiting for them to invite me.
It’s a process. It will take time. But in the long run, I think it will be worth it … and then I’ll think about reactivating my Facebook account. Or killing my Twitter account too.