Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

Are MySpace, Facebook, texting deleting ‘real’ human interaction?

March 5, 2007


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Olin Dalaba, 72, who has been a barber in McLouth for almost half a century, chats recently with customer Melvin Bundy, of rural Tonganoxie. The barbershop has long been a venue in the community where people get together and pass the time. Increasing use of the Internet, cell phones and other technology has raised fears that people are engaging in less face-to-face interaction with other people.

Olin Dalaba, 72, who has been a barber in McLouth for almost half a century, chats recently with customer Melvin Bundy, of rural Tonganoxie. The barbershop has long been a venue in the community where people get together and pass the time. Increasing use of the Internet, cell phones and other technology has raised fears that people are engaging in less face-to-face interaction with other people.

Using Facebook for socializing

KU student Meaghan O'Malley giving us a tour of her Facebook page and talking about how she keeps in touch with her friends. Enlarge video

Communication is changing with the times

It's hard to throw a party, break up with your boyfriend, or fail a class these days on the KU campus without it being reflected on the popular website It's just one sign of the changing face of communication. Enlarge video

In the small town of Tonganoxie, there's usually a customer or two hanging out at Shilling's electric-supply shop.

"It's kind of a coffee shop without the coffee shop," owner Phyllis Shilling said. "I've got a couple in here now solving the world issues."

That daily stream of visitors stands in contrast to the world of online communication through Internet communities such as MySpace and Facebook. Instead of chatting eye-to-eye, members swap text messages, post pictures of themselves, and update their profiles - age, dating status, favorite TV shows and music - for the world to see.

"I just can't quite see the benefit of just having all these photos when you've got a real person probably within a half-mile of you," Shilling said. "Why not just go and visit or call on the phone and have a voice-to-voice conversation?"

No substitute

The explosion in recent years in the number of blogs and social-networking sites raises the question: is face-to-face communication, of the kind that happens around Shilling's shop, being threatened? Experts say the answer is "no" - that despite how it feels at times, Internet communication isn't becoming a substitute for human interaction.

"It's not just the Internet. People said that about the telephone, too," said Nancy Baym, an associate professor of communication studies at Kansas University. "One of the main things we did with the telephone was arrange face-to-face get-togethers, and you see exactly the same thing going on with the Internet."

KU freshman Meaghan O'Malley uses Facebook to keep track of her friends' latest social developments, make plans for the weekend, post pictures of herself with friends, and stay in touch with people who live out of state. She uses her phone primarily to send text messages and rarely places a call unless it's urgent.

When she went through a breakup recently, one of her first moves was to change her "status" to single. When she was going through sorority recruitment, she made a special effort to keep offensive material off her page.

She estimates she spends about two hours a day on the site.

"It takes away from studying, but it doesn't take away from being with my friends one-on-one," she said.


According to data from a 2004-2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, teenagers report that they spend about 10 hours each week interacting face-to-face with friends out of school, compared with 7.5 to 8 hours a week communicating online.

Pew researcher Amanda Lenhart said it's not safe to assume that the time people spend online detracts from the time they'd be having face-to-face interactions.

"It's not clear what's being exchanged. Some research I've seen suggests that it's taking away from television time," she said. "In the past, I think teens would have spent hours and hours on the phone. ... They're now taking that onto an online environment."

After all, there are plenty of examples of places where old-fashioned human interaction still takes place. In McLouth, there's the barber shop that Olin Dalaba has run for the past 49 years.

"We talk about the weather, politics, sports or anything there is," Dalaba said. "I have a few guys that come in and loaf with me."

For Mary Olive Thompson, who coordinates the weekly Wednesdays at Liberty Hall after-school event for Lawrence middle-school students, MySpace has become a promotional tool to let people know about what bands are playing at the event each week. She said students in the crowd are constantly in touch with their friends, often through text messaging on their cell phones.

If there's been a decline in social interaction in the years he's been living in McLouth, Dalaba blames it on TV more than anything.

"I don't think families get together and visit much anymore because I think television did away with that," he said. "We don't have the company over like we used to."

To see what they are saying on the street, Click here!

The state of communication

Name: Meaghan O'Malley, KU freshmanAge: 18Hometown: Overland Park How she communicates:¢ Facebook: Uses it about two hours a day to make plans with friends, stay on top of social developments, leave messages and post pictures. "It can be like stalking."¢ Text messaging: Uses it in place of phone calls. "Text messaging is huge."¢ E-mail: Uses it mainly for communicating with professors. "A lot of my TAs from my classes have Facebook, so you can just talk with them through that."¢ Phone calls: Uses the telephone rarely. "On occasion, if it's like short-term ... but most of the time you make plans through Facebook."


Linda Endicott 8 years, 7 months ago

I have seen my daughter chatting with someone online, when that very person was in the same building that she was. This doesn't make much sense to me. Why not just go to the same damn room and actually talk?

This is probably pretty common anymore with other kids, too. If you have friends that have moved away and you can't see them in person very often, that's one thing.

I have seen numerous people go to restaurants with other people, and then when the cell phone rings, spend all their time talking on the phone instead of with the people they came with. What makes sense about that? Why did they come in together if they're not going to talk to each other while they're there?

It's a different world anymore, that's for sure.

white_mountain 8 years, 7 months ago

wild guess here, but I'm thinkin the good folks at shilling's electric don't do alot of blogging?

compmd 8 years, 7 months ago

No, its giving us the illusion that it is bringing people closer together. Sure, for the here and now people may be able to network more easily with a site like facebook, but what happens when you take away the Internet? How unreasonable is that? Just a few weeks ago there was a major attack on three of the root DNS servers that make the Internet function. The servers weathered the storm, but a better coordinated attack could have left people high and dry. Then what? What do all the kids do who can't talk to people because they don't know how? How do people interact when they don't have a keyboard? Its no secret that people are different when they can hide behind a computer. How would social interaction for those who are conditioned to being at a computer change if the computers were taken away?

Text messaging has got to be one of the most idiotic and insanely profitable inventions ever. Charging 10 cents per message (sent or received) to send 160 characters to another person's dinky phone with a crappy interface is crazy. The costs add up. What are people thinking when they could just pick up the phone likely for FREE and just TALK to someone? Text messaging has its place, but the widespread use as a means for social communication is insane.

The facebook addicts are part of the instant gratification movement. Meaghan, for example, disclosed that she spends two hours a day on facebook. For someone who should have work to do (and she admits it takes time away from studying) this is just wrong. But, it takes time when you have 690 friends to keep track of. Everyone wants to know everything about everyone else, and they want to know it right now.

compmd 8 years, 7 months ago

I do all of the same things Meaghan does, just with different priorities, and I'm sure I share the same priorities with many here. Yes, I have a facebook page. No, I don't spend two hours on it daily. If a friend changed something interesting, sure, I'll check it out, but the world won't end if I don't. Yes, I'll send a text message for a quick communique if I'm in a meeting and someone is calling me. My frantic friends with free text messaging are blocked so they don't cost me a pile of money to read "ZOMG DID U C AMERCAN IDOL 2NITE ROTFLOL" I want to tear off my skin with a rusty cheese slicer when I read that crap. If I need to talk to someone immediately, I call them. Email is great for correspondence with people you can't realistically have realtime communication with, like friends in other countries or for business matters that require some research or work in order to get a response. Ultimately, nothing beats talking to people face to face in my opinion. Conversation, emotion, and the use of our minds in the ways that make us human are key to personal interactions. We are raising a cuture of teens and twentysomethings that can't effectively communicate. This regression is going to take us back to caveman days as far as communication goes. As it is, people can't spell worth a darn anymore, and many have lost the ability to form coherent sentences and thoughts in verbal or written form. I shudder to think how this will progress.

I suppose I should sum up my post in a method suitable for consumption for the facebook and text messaging addicts:


prioress 8 years, 7 months ago

We are a social species who needs a 'tribe' to survive effectively; I fear, however, the cyber tribes are not as useful as they seem. In some cases, keeping up with relatives or long-term friends can be useful on the internet. In most cases, people are wasting valuable time that could be used in real interaction.

oldgoof 8 years, 7 months ago

Kawryan and FlakeyT made me spew coffee out the nose.

Kat Christian 8 years, 7 months ago

It's no wander. Who has time to visit, much less any significant interaction. Working all day, caring for children, a home. I know I don't have the time. The only people I interact with are the ones I see at work, sometimes people I pass on the street or in the store. I only wish I had the time to visit or have visitors. This is what I've been saying that there should be a law that the work week be shortened to 30 hours a week. I think we Americans spend far too much time at work and not enough time with people (family and friends) having quality time. For what? Is business all that important to do away with human interation? If we don't do something about this people will become even more insensitive to others and before long just not care then just chaos will consume humanity. I only wish I could work less hours but unfortunately the cost of living prohibits me from doing that, in fact I will probably work until the day I die because there won't be any social security and retirement is a luxury I can't afford. This is the new American way.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 7 months ago

Maybe the key here is the definition of the word "friend".

People I have "met" online are not really "friends". When I was growing up, friends were people you actually knew face to face, spent time with, hung out with, and who knew practically everything about you. They were people who you had more than one thing in common with. They were people you could count on.

My daughter has tons of internet "friends". She has met only a handful of these people face to face, and of the ones she has actually met, most are no longer "friends". Seems that talking on the computer was the main thing they had in common, and that wasn't enough to keep the "friendships" going.

I think a whole lot of kids now have confused "acquaintances" as "friends".

Just because you know somebody's name and talk to them occasionally, online or in person, doesn't make them a "friend".

newsreader 8 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone else find it odd that we are sitting at a computer reading about how computers are deleting 'real' human interaction? Irony?

Linda Endicott 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't really consider this "real" human interaction, though of course I know there are "real" humans behind the words.

Except on message boards like this one, everyone is usually anonymous. You don't know their names, and you don't know anything about their real lives.

Posting on a message board is one way to get your opinions known. But I've never become "friends" with anyone from a message board.

EXks 8 years, 7 months ago

This is FRONT PAGE news???

This fluff belongs in the entertainment section.

unklemonkey 8 years, 7 months ago

First of all, I want to say that I totally agree with EXks. Good point.

That said, modern communication methods like IM, e-mail, and text messaging do not take away face-to-face interaction. They promote it. Example: if you meet someone on MySpace/Facebook and you become friends, then at some point you would want to meet that person: face-to-face interaction. Also, modern communication methods can save us hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars! If you want to talk to someone in another state (or even another country), just e-mail them! Not good enough, you say? Do you want to see the person? Well, then, send them pictures of yourself! They can do the same.

StirrrThePot 8 years, 7 months ago

The answer is yes and no. These sites are wonderful ways to keep in touch with people en masse, but some people use them excessively and exclusively to communicate. Nothing will ever take the place of personal, face-to-face interaction, but we could be in danger of letting an entire generation slip into an e-coma when it comes to interpersonal relations. People need to step back and be reminded of this.

MySpace and Facebook are fun sites and great tools for keeping in touch with people miles away, or meeting someone in your area, but use it to supplement what you already know and do to communicate--not replace it. Parents need to remind their kids of this as technology tends to be very addictive.

Dominic_Sova 8 years, 7 months ago

a new, local online gallery and social networking site for Lawrence artsists.

internet with a purpose!!

Harry_Manback 8 years, 7 months ago

I found out where my little brother decided to attend college at from a facebook update, despite the fact that I see him weekly. That made me realize the way we transmit info. really is chaning. However, I really don't think it's replacing human interaction, if anything it's reconnecting people who might only run into one another at a high school reunion, etc. I call my real friends and family regularly, but it's a nice way to keep in touch with those you don't see often or family that lives far away.

Harry_Manback 8 years, 7 months ago

Also, why pay $0.10 a text message when you can add unlimited messages to your plan for little or no cost?

Linda Endicott 8 years, 7 months ago

The frightening thing about all the text messages and IMs is that kids are spending so much time with their electronic gadgets that they don't have TIME to have face to face relationships.

ksmoderate 8 years, 7 months ago

Wow, rightthinker is a one-trick pony.

Eddie Muñoz 8 years, 7 months ago

I can't believe this is news.

Facebook, text messaging, and the internet in general will not replace human interaction.

All of this is just a shift in the way people communicate.

Five years from now it will probably change again.

Confrontation 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't know about the rest of you, but I find that MySpace serves a much greater purpose. There are those people from high school/college/life that I don't want to actually deal with in person. MySpace is a way to make them feel like you care, but you really don't.

bugmenot 8 years, 7 months ago

If you don't care about them but pretend to via myspace, aren't you wasting time you could be spending on people you do care about? Why would you even want to stay in touch with people you don't want to deal with in person? I swear, this is all about pumping up egos ("I have 700 myspace friends") without doing any of the scary and difficult things that come with friendship.

bugmenot 8 years, 7 months ago saying goodbye to people you no longer care about.

yellowhouse 8 years, 7 months ago

Myspace is a great way to get your message out there to the world! It is about communication!

No more secrecy!

You can put all the facts out there for the whole world to see!

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