A 2nd Question for You…

Posted By on May 25, 2011 in Social Media | 23 comments


Last week I posed a question on here about boys and girls, men and women, friends forever or a recipe for disaster. The comments were fascinating. People told stories and shared opinions. A beautiful dialogue was created. So today I want to pose another series of questions on something that has been nagging at me lately and let you guys impart your wisdom once again. (You obviously know a lot more than I do.)

First let me say, I am a huge advocate of social media. Social media allows us to build community, stay in touch, and connect like-minded people around the world.

Do you think social media has blurred our definition of intimacy?

Do you find yourself or others confusing online transparency with vulnerability?

Do you ever wonder who is a virtual stranger, and who is a virtual best friend?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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  • Metromom

    I think that the social media has both expanded and stunted our ability to connect with others on an intimate level. It definitely allows boundaries to be removed and offers a sense of safety for people to say and share who they are.  But it also allows us to photoshop ourselves to the point that people are seeing the gaussian blurred version of ourselves.  I think in the right hands it is a wonderful tool but when our insecurity takes over it becomes a virtual nightmare.  

    • http://lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

      Yes, we get to project an edited version of ourselves. Which is fine if everyone realizes that is what it is. :)

  • http://twitter.com/joesheehan Joe Sheehan

    Lindsey – great questions.

    Yes, social media has “blurred” our lines of intimacy.  BUT – alot of technologies have done the same and will continue to do so. AOL IM in the 90’s? Same thing. AND STILL – once these lines are blurred, they can be re-drawn if you really want them to, as dark as you would. You have the power to do so.

    Yes, I confuse online transparency as vulnerability. Its something for me to work on. No, I don’t wonder who is a virtual stranger or my virtual best friend. I don’t think in those terms at all.

    Friendships always have context. Social Media just creates new contexts and methods to talk. Intimacy goes beyond both.

    Now – its only fair for you to answer these questions too ;)

    • http://lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

      Joe,

      Great point. We can, and probably need to, redraw these lines for ourselves. As for more answers, they are still a little blurry on this but here’s a stab at it.

      Do you think social media has blurred our definition of intimacy? I do.

      Do you find yourself or others confusing online transparency with vulnerability? Do you ever wonder who is a virtual stranger, and who is a virtual best friend?

      Too often who assume immediate
      intimacy because of things I have shared via social media. And then I
      realize I do it also. Lately, I find myself now being skeptical of how close I
      really am with people when I realize that they pursue thousands of
      people in the same way they pursue me.

      Most of the people I interact with online frequently are also people I know in real life. Social media compliments our relationships but is not a substitute for real human interaction.

      • http://twitter.com/joesheehan Joe Sheehan

        Thanks for replying. I think its so important to mix online and real human interaction.

        I try to “get off the grid” as a way to re-center myself as to who I’m spending time with. After all, you start to realize how much you use anything once you discipline yourself to stop using it (social media, snacks, alcohol, etc). That has helped me in the past.

        At the same time – what if you never met someone in person but only communicated over social media? Would you feel like you knew them? Or maybe just sorta skirted thier boundaries? I’d feel the latter, and I have felt that many times in the past.

  • http://www.sarahmarkley.com/ Sarah Markley

    We all know i’ve been super wrong about “first impressions” of people that i’ve met online. whats interesting is that I’ve been more wrong about people I get to know online than those i meet in my daily life.

    so yes, i think there is a false sense of intimacy i think. although, truth be told, some of my best friends right now are as a result of online friendship. and i haven’t been wrong about them. =)

    • http://lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

      My first impressions are often wrong. I’ve also realized I can dislike or be offended by someone’s online persona but still need to have an open heart and mind when I meet them in person. Because the two, don’t always sync.

  • Anonymous

    I was just thinking about this last week. I think social media has given EVERYONE a soapbox.  But there’s not a lot of wisdom in what some people will spew from their little box. I don’t think there’s a lot of transparency as much as venting of opinions & hoping someone will follow.  People can share opinions and not share their story which is what you get in a friendship.  

    The younger generation will blur the definition of intimacy because of social media.  I think parents need to help their kids develop healthy relationships outside of social media to keep them in balance. 

    It’s a great tool to connect with people and develop a rapport.  There are friends from high school I keep in touch with on Facebook and I know I would never pick up the phone to call them on a regular basis.  

    I’ve developed friendships on-line, but at some point enough trust was developed to pick up the phone & have a conversation. 

    Great questions!

  • http://dubdynomite.com dubdynomite

    In some ways, social media is kind of like a cocktail party (for lack of a better illustration). Real intimacy is more difficult in a setting like that because everyone there is trying their hardest to put their best face forward. So you only see a part of the whole person, which is the part they want you to see.

    The difference with online communication is that the imaginary wall that exists between us all online gives some people more confidence to say things they might ordinarily not say if the conversation were face-to-face. Some people might call that transparency, but it’s really just a function of the medium.

    Both of the above result in getting the wrong impression of who someone really is, which makes it very difficult to build the sort of relationship that you would have in real life. There may be some people whose life online is an accurate reflection of who they are in real life, but how can you really tell?

    I think that if you are a person who is truly yourself in the online world, you have a better chance at connecting with others in a way that is not superficial.  But I also think those relationships are intentional, not accidental.

  • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece

    i think social media has blurred my perception of intimacy in some ways. it fosters a sense of comfortability and familiarity that isn’t necessarily reflective of my own relationship with a person (as much as i sometimes think or hope it is…). 

    i am constantly struck lately by a very clear lack of boundaries that so many people seem to display in how they engage online. it’s frightening in a lot of ways. 

    some of my closest friendships initiated or grew via online mediums, so i definitely believe strongly in social meda. i just need to recognize that i can only “go there” with so many… 

    • http://dubdynomite.com dubdynomite

      Setting the right boundaries is tough. I don’t talk much about my wife or kids online out of respect for their privacy. I try not to over-share about myself, try not to be too emo – I second guess myself a lot – so there are a ton of things that never make it online that are similar to what I see other people posting.  I’m probably overly cautious.

      I really prefer to ‘listen’ and respond. It’s true to how I am in real life, and it’s more comfortable for me. But, sometimes I think it makes me come across as boring (which might be true…), or stalker-ish (since I see everyone’s updates, but make few of my own).

    • http://lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

      yep, me too. me too. 

  • www.ristowswife.wordpress.com

    I’ve never received as much encouragement and prayers as I have via social media.
    But… and it’s a big but…
    As wonderful as all those encouraging words were via facebook and twitter, none of it could compare to the hugs and in- person prayers that were few and far between.
    But the hurt… oh wow… the hurts that have come via facebook have been just as devastating and painful, the words “spoken” and shared like daggers in my heart just as sharp and sharper still than any that happened face to face.

    On another note… I’m so glad that me and my hubby got together before texting. I hope that my daughter’s, when they are grown, will experience the summersault and butterflies when they’re future hubby asks them out in person… and not via a text. I fear that our generation will be last to know such things…  I hope that the honesty brought about by facebook will not crush my little ones before they are strong enough to resist the false courage it gives those who should never speak at all.

  • http://alexspeaks.com Alex Humphrey

    There is no doubt Social Media has blurred the lines of intimacy. I spent my childhood with very few friends who I spent almost all of my time with; now I live in a world where I spend very little time with a couple hundred “friends”.  Not only is social media blurring the lines of friendship, it’s making it harder to go deeper into relationships.  For instance, have you ever had a friend suddenly confess to you that their life was in shambles? Most of the time it comes out of nowhere. Yet, I have a few friends who I’ve spent some good time with who I can tell when life is beating them down.  Yet, it’s getting harder and harder for me to pick up on these kinds of things due to my lack of connection with most people. That being said, I still think their are advantages to social media. For instance, I can talk to my wife all day at work through texts and facebook messages. It doesn’t hinder me (much) but it keeps us connected throughout the day when (in a previous lifetime) we wouldn’t have been able to talk for 9 or so hours a day.  It also helps me keep in touch with more people who I can influence – though it also lessons my influence. It’s a hard line. Some good, some bad. I guess (even though I regularly use social media) I think it’s more bad than good. Jesus poured his life into 12 (70?) people who’s entire lives were rocked by the experience. I may interact with more people than Jesus did, but do I have any real impact on their lives? Does a facebook message mean anything?

    • http://lindseynobles.com Lindsey Nobles

      Yeah, I’m processing through similar questions. Like many areas of life I think we need to live in the tension. 

  • http://twitter.com/LindseyHartz Lindsey Hartz

    This is a tough one…I too have received more encouragement, support, and prayers through social media than I ever thought possible.  I’ve also been ignored by people I greatly admire and would love to learn from. 

    I much prefer in-person relationships and all the messiness and laughter and tears and misunderstandings that come with that~ because we can learn to be Christ-like together, in person. 

    I think as long as we keep online relationships in perspective~ that for the most part they are more for inspiration and information (except for the rare few that break through and become real life friends-truly a blessing!) then social media doesn’t have to blur our intimacy or cause confusion. 

    It’s all about the right perspective, the right expectations, and the right heart in what you are hoping to gain from those relationships. 

    Great questions~ LOVE the conversation! 

    Blessings,
    Lindsey

  • http://twitter.com/rachelshaeh Rachel Henderson

    This has been on my mind a lot lately.  I see friends sharing so much of themselves and being so open and honest, and I respect that and try to do the same, but I always stop short because I can’t help thinking, “Hold on. Why do I want to be so open and honest with so many strangers?”
    I guess there’s the difference though: there’s a difference between honesty and vulnerability.  Honesty is good.  But when it gets to vulnerability–that’s the thing I have a problem with just being out there in cyberspace for anyone to read.  I have more of a problem with casual acquaintances reading it, though, than complete strangers.

    So like you said–need to figure out where the difference is between a good amount of honesty and too much vulnerability. No idea where that line is.

  • http://www.nikao.ws Vince

    I think we’re past the separation of media space and real life. Granted the majority of the population is still learning what that means. Overall we have become comfortable with expecting that we will commune in real life with those we interact with.

    I think this speeds up intimacy in relationships because it speeds up everything about relationships as we now have much more presence in each other’s lives.

  • Brandon

    I feel like social media has allowed us to be more in control of how we are seen – our personalities online can be (and I’m afraid often are) completely contrived and presented in whatever way we think works best for the audience – if that means “vulnerability” then we play that card, if we think they want to see how strong we are, then we show that.

    The Bible teaches us that we are know by our fruit…instead social media portrays that we can build walls around our plants so that no one can see the fruit. 

    I don’t think it has blurred our definition of intimacy, I think it has thrown intimacy out the window.

  • Rhettsmithmft

    Lindsey,

    This is a great question. I have gone back and forth over the years. And I have written about this topic on my blog a lot (going back and forth a lot, http://rhettsmith.com/2010/05/are-we-fooling-ourselves-to-think-intimacy-can-be-created-through-social-media/ )

    I think how we define intimacy has been blurred for sure.

    I love social media (I use all kinds of it), but I have tailored myself back in the last year or so.  The biggest change for me was my interaction with John Dyer (www.donteatthefruit.com) as we were doing some workshops together in the Dallas area.  Of anyone, he taught me the most that technology shapes us….regardless….we have no say in whether it shapes us or not, but we can choose to set healthy boundaries around it.

    Also, in my work as a marriage and family therapist I see how a  couple’s use of/or one partner’s use of social media has hindered intimacy in their lives.  This is a growing and common problem.  And it has real affects in people’s lives. I see it in marriages everyday.

    We just have to know going in that there are going to be unintended consequences of our use of technology (both positive and negative).  And then we have to ask ourselves the question if we are okay with some of these things?

    As a husband and father I’ve put really strict boundaries around my use of technology and social media, especially when I get home.  We have a tray/basket where everything goes as a tangible boundary and reminder in our household that our face to face time…our interaction with one another has precedence over anything coming across our phone or computer screens.

    I do marriage therapy in person and I also do it on Skype with couples across the country. I can say from experience that there is a disconnect in the level of intimacy I experience with a couple in person in session vs.  in session with the use of technology.  It’s subtle, but it is there and it is real.

    I will continue to use social media and technology but I do so with eyes wide open.  And I’m trying to be more thoughtful about my use of it, especially as a father, husband and friend.

    Rhett Smith

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethbeutler Beth LeMay Beutler

    I think social media has its pros and cons. It has helped me but also in some ways not been good for me. I use it primarily as a platform to share and encourage biblical thought about various things in life and point people to my websites and writing.
    It has helped “break the ice” with many people I only see in passing at church (for example) so that we can more easily strike up a conversation when we do see each other in person. I like that part overall, but can’t say that it really makes me much “closer” to that person.

    I have found it interesting and humbling to realize that there are people who may rarely comment, but once in awhile will (virtually or otherwise) which shows me they really are reading some of what I write.

    I’ve pulled back from sharing some details, and have put together a SOS group of three other gals who meet personally and communicate by text or phone too. I love where that is going. (SOS means several things such as Serving Our Savior, Supporting our Sisters, Saving our Sanity, etc.) That is where more intimacy is developing. I’m the most “social media” active of the four and it doesn’t seem to weaken our relationship that they may not post as much, if at all. While it would be fun to interact more on social media with them, it isn’t necessary.

    One observation I have of Twitter as compared to Facebook is that you can more easily follow whoever you want (since they don’t have to approve a friend request.) Often, if you happen to follow people who are friends with each other, and they use Twitter to communicate with each other, it can feel like one is eavesdropping on conversations among friends when in a “real” setting they would be across the room talking and we wouldn’t think to walk up and lean in to hear what they are saying. For some reason, that is somewhat of an annoyance to me. I think I partly know why. I admit that sometimes, I am jealous of what experiences they are having that seem more exciting than my life sometimes is, or they are getting to do what I (perceive) I would also like to be part of. If I’m not careful, social media can lead me to a bit of discontentment.

    I also wonder if social media can lead to pride or self-centeredness because the nature of it is “What I’m thinking” or “What I’m up to.”  Does knowing what someone had for dinner help you be more intimate friends? Maybe, maybe not. It may break down walls to more familiarity, but sometimes I find that in person, walls still exist. I can think of at least two examples with people who live nearby, but who hesitate to cross that line into fellowshipping “in person” outside of a church, work or FB environment even though we live within 3 miles of each other. 
    I think, too, sometimes people AVOID being friends on FB with people who have lots of other friends and contacts. I know of at least one situation where I wish I could be FB friends with someone I used to spend time with. We seem civil when we see each other, yet she does not accept my friend request. I have chosen not to ask about it. I sense that because I am “well connected” on social media, she fears opening the door to a lot of other people asking to be her friend and she doesn’t want a big circle on FB.

    I have people who see the number of FB “friends” I have and I guess are “impressed.” But there’s a difference between “contacts,” and true friends. Those, I could probably count on my fingers.

  • http://www.insidepages.net Stephanie Smith

    I manage social media for my job, and am immersed in it both personally and professionally. That being said, I was just thinking today about the danger of social media in that it trains my head and heart down a road I’m not sure I want to travel. 

    I can only take in so much. I am online all day, surrounded by content, some of which is fantastic, heart-stirring, and challenging, and some of which is just plain noise. So social media has conditioned me to skim–to skip over, speed read, and try to sort between what offers value, edification, and truth, and what does not. It’s the nature of the beast, but I don’t like the way it makes me distracted and clutters my focus. 

    Stephanie S. Smith
    http://www.insidepages.net

  • http://exegete77.wordpress.com/ Rich

    I have struggled with this as I have increased my blogging and FB interactions over the past few months. One aspect doesn’t seem to be addressed… time response. Social media now almost demands instantaneous responses. Thus, we “flick the answers” rather than reflect and consider how to respond. By doing so, we confuse interaction with communication. The instantaneous response seems to indicate genuine interest, but does not necessarily. Even responses to blog posts can be knee-jerk motivated.

    When I deployed with the Navy, I made a total of two calls to my wife at great expense. No email, no computers, nothing instantaneous. We wrote weekly letters to each other. Part of the challenge was to know hen to fill in the blanks, but part of the joy was realizing that I could take a while to work through that. Does my wife mean this or that? The more I knew her, the more the communication was complemented by our shared knowing.

    That time and reflective aspect seems missing from social media. From a really old codger… LOL

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