Social Media and Loneliness

A few quick comments on a discussion on this morning's Diane Rehm show. For a longer commentary, see Nathan Jurgenson's post at http://bit.ly/JUcnGI

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  1. The tweet that started it all. Early this morning, UNC Professor Zeynep Tufekci was on Diane Rehm's NPR show discussing "Social Media and Loneliness" ( http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-05-14/social-media-and-loneliness ) with MIT Professor Sherry Turkle and author and columnist Stephen Marche. Tufekci encouraged her Twitter followers to ask questions online, but it became clear pretty early on that the show was only paying attention to the phones. 

    The following set of tweets involves parts of a dialogue that many of us had on Twitter with each other, but more importantly, were trying to have with Diane Rehm and the show's guests. 
  2. The first bit of the show involved some commentary from Sherry Turkle, highlighting some of the points that she makes in her recent book Alone Together. Yet, the points that she brought up were not sitting well with some of us on the online audience, with individuals pointing out that loneliness comes perhaps not from technology, but from our western lifestyles. 
  3. Near this point in the show, Tufekci brought up the great point that much of the data point to how individuals who are more social offline are also more social online, and that these spaces are often reflective and woven together, far from the isolated digital world that Turkle portrays. 
  4. While there was largely a critical perspective of Turkle's argument on Twitter, some were pro-Turkle. 
  5. Later the discussion started to shift about not whether social media was problematic, but the nuanced changes that social media is facilitating in our lives. Ruby pointed out the problematic nature of this binary, and I couldn't help but point to how relationships exist not only in face to face interactions, but through phone calls, text messages, letters, emails, etc. There is a large number of communication media that helps us interact with those we care about. We talk, fight, love and develop capital of all kinds through these media. It is not an easy online/offline split like Turkle tries to point to. 
  6. Nathan responded to Marche's claim that sometimes people are not performing: 
  7. The conversation then turned to Turkle explaining the social actions that took place around watching television for her family, but completely ignored the same kind of social actions that can take place when people are co-located and using social media. 
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