wherein i reveal i am kind of a reactionary

We are in the States this week. As time goes by the culture shock of coming back here gets worse, not with my family, but with everything else: the world outside my parents’ front door. Even though I pretty much know what to expect, and we spent practically our entire summer here this year, America feels a little weird and somewhat foreign.

This time around I have been thinking a lot about the way technology is used, and my sister has got me thinking about how pervasive social networking is in the US, whereas in Italy it seems to be not much farther than its embryonic stage. Or maybe I live under a rock. I never got involved in the social networking, probably because I had my blog, and I tend to be out of the loop on anything very technological anyway, but lately, and especially since we’ve been here, even I have been picking up on the way people seem to rely on it increasingly to meet their social needs, and it seems kind of sad to me.

This is not to say that the internet is bad or social networking is inherently wrong – I have met people online and I do think the internet can provide opportunites for creating wonderful communities, but there is something to be said for genuine, real life social interaction.

I am interested to know what you think about all this. Is social networking an invaluable tool? A force for evil? Does it cheapen the concept of friendship? Does it encourage us to depict ourselves as better and not necessarily genuine versions of the people we really are? Or would we do this anyway in real life? Does it open the world to us and enable us to reach out to a greater diversity of social contacts or does it encourage us to interact almost exclusively with people who share our outlook and beliefs? In searching to “connect” and make our lives feel important, are we cutting ourselves off from the people in our actual lives and keeping ourselves from really living?

I don’t know. But I wonder.


About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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10 Responses to wherein i reveal i am kind of a reactionary

  1. Gil says:

    I am old so I don’t use texts, but I do use FB and email to keep up with friends and relatives in other parts of the World and the USA. Maybe, I’m so turned off by texting because I love to talk! Enjoy your stay here and I hope you make it without good fruit and veggies! That is unless you are in CA.

  2. meredith says:

    I use FB to keep in touch with family and friends back in the states and a network of English speaking expats that I first connected to through blogging (mostly). I had local friends and neighbors wanted to “friend” me on there, and at first I accepted. But then I unfriended almost everyone I see on a regular basis. What’s the point? I post more photos of my kids on FB because I think that only my “friends” on there can see them, whereas my blog is public. And my neighbors see my kids almost everyday, whether they want to or not 🙂

  3. oldmdgirl says:

    Overall, I think social networking via the internet is a positive thing. I’m able to keep in touch with friends whom I probably would never see again via facebook and my blog, and I’ve been able to meet new people. As far as meeting only people who are like me, at least it allows me to do that. Without the internet, if you’re the odd one out you either change to fit the expectations of others around you, or you have no friends. I’m not sure either of those alternatives is preferable.

    Texting allows me to have social interaction with people I actually like when I’m at work (working with people I’m mostly meh about). It is also wonderful because it allows me to communicate with my husband throughout the day, even while he’s in meetings (which is basically 100% of the time)! It doesn’t look nearly as bad to read and respond to a text as it would to answer the phone while you’re in a meeting.

    There probably is a risk with technology that one would never leave the house or engage in face-to-face interaction…. but I think that risk is small compared with all of the benefits.

  4. Aunt Patti says:

    Hi Jen! Your post reminded me of when your dad was here and a bunch of your extended family went to a Cal Bears football game. There were four young men (high school age, I think) sitting next to us. They spent almost the entire time on their iPhones on Facebook. First, I couldn’t believe they would pay that much money to go to a football game and not watch it. Then I was sad that this was the main focus of their interaction. I am not indicting social networking. The benefits definitely outweighs the risks. It was just sad that the art of conversation apart from these young men’s phones seemed to be lost. Enjoy the rest of your time here in the States! Give everyone a big hug for me!

  5. Mary Ann says:

    I think the technological networking is somewhat generational. As an older person, the cell phone is far the worst culprit. During the Thanksgiving weekend, I was sitting in the family room with 3 of my children and 6 or 8 of my grandchildren. Two of the older kids were texting and all of the grandchildren were “messing” with their phones. I was just so irritated. Trying to carry on a conversation was useless. Don’t get me wrong, I have a cell phone and it is used like a telephone. This constant texting and game playing on cell phones is ruining family interaction as we once knew it.

  6. Melanie says:

    I must be an old curmudgeon, because I think, on the whole, that our reliance on social networking in the US (to the exclusion of, you know, actually socializing face-to-face) is sad, too. Everyone has their smartphones out, constantly, and is texting or checking FB…. I think, with FB especially, there’s the opportunity to overshare and become reliant on the technology. I guess I value the concepts of privacy and, well, solitude. That’s not to say that I don’t think that there are some nice things about being able to text someone rather than pick up the phone, or that you can’t meet new people or re-connect with old ones via networking sites. I’m very ambivalent, edging toward the negative side, about the whole issue.

  7. Mauryn says:

    I have mixed feelings about FB. Through it I’ve reconnected with people from my past that (after I moved to Italy) I thought I would never hear from or know of ever again. And that’s pretty powerful. On the other hand, it does seem like some people are obsessed (Italians included) and feel the need to post every single picture or give status updates to tell everyone what they had for lunch or where they are at that exact moment, which is irritating and which is why I don’t get Twitter. Not to mention that every time I’m out with certain groups of friends and pictures are taken, I am painfully aware that, quite possibly, they’ll wind up on FB for the world to see. And nobody wants an unflattering photo of them floating around in the ether, at least I don’t! 🙂
    Also, Aunt Patti’s comment kind of reminds me of the last concert I went to. Nearly everyone there was recording the show on their phones or taking pictures and posting the pictures in real time. Also irritating.

  8. Aunt Patti says:

    I am going to sound so…. old. Moderation seems like a good thing says I, who has been accused many times for over using my “crackberry”. I don’t Facebook or tweet, but find the smart phone incredibly convenient to check email on, text once in a while for a quick message and use as a phone. I do spend way too much time looking up what my family calls useless information about what ever comes to mind. I read this week that research has determined that most of on line usage is merely to pass the time to which I should say put the phone down,or turn off your computer and look around at your surroundings. You may see something or someone interesting.

  9. Aunt Patti says:

    By the way…. the last comment should be credited to Uncle Roland using Patti’s computer.

  10. Laura says:

    I just got back from the US as well…and I know exactly what you mean. I spent a lot of time questioning connections, dependency on technology, world going too fast, etc. I think much to the dismay of my friends and family. I could not really put my thoughts into words on the actual discomfort of it all, but found that the media and peer pressure have incredible powers. I actually like Facebook because it is a way of keeping a foot in that life in the US, but yes, it is mostly filled with info I did not need to know in the first place. Funny though, texting here in Italy is a must. I find I use it as a learning tool (as I text in Italian) and even though I am not using my voice…I am still interacting, albeit a little lazily.

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