Pew Internet released a report on Social Isolation and New Technology contradicting previous studies on the subject:
This Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.
I also think that Facebook users have real-life connections as well, but since Facebook has spread massively, my feeling is that the pre-existing real-life relationships are being sucked into Facebook too.
In the beginning, TV used to show and describe reality, and people would talk about what happened on TV. Starting around 20 years ago, I noticed that TV talked more and more about what happened on TV itself in a self-referencing way. I saw that mostly through other peoples’ TV sets since I don’t own a set myself. Seeing TV only rarely makes me more aware of the macro-changes. At a certain point, TV didn’t just show and talk about reality any more, but made reality itself, which was then commented upon by TV itself and by other media.
The Net followed a similar but slightly different path. A few years ago, the Net was limited to a small percentage of the population and it was immediately self-referential, encouraged by the easy mechanism of the link system.
Then, as social networks spread, people populated Facebook and similar sites. Recently, I noticed that real-life conversations got more into “what happened on Facebook” and this in itself fuelled the growth of the social network itself. People didn’t want to feel “left out” so they flocked to Facebook. Suddenly, people would feel left out if they weren’t present on the Net and in its happenings, more than if they weren’t present in face-to-face meetings.
The Net got priority. Without it, many real meetings can’t happen anymore as they are organized as Facebook events. Since we spend more and more time online, without the Net, we could even become short of arguments in our real-life conversations.
Many people into technology welcome the interaction between the Net and real life, seeing that as something which balances both and which takes the Net out of a cage. The problem is that the process of digitalization of reality is quite greedy and tends to incorporate every aspect of reality, absorbing the wholeness of reality starting from the mental level, representing it digitally as if everything could be translated into bytes. So in the end, reality becomes sucked into the Net, which has to be lifestreamed or lifelogged in order to become realized. Reality can be considered real only when can become digitalized.