How Social is Your Network?

The other day I was listening to CBS’s As It Happens podcast on my iPod while an Egyptian citizen was being interviewed about the situation in her country. When she was asked about how the shut down of the internet, specifically social networking sites like Twitter were effecting the spread of news she said that it wasnt having as much effect as the government wanted it to. She said that instead people were relying on their actual social network instead of their virtual one. News was spreading just as fast through word of mouth as it would have over the internet.

Isn’t that a novel idea? Talking. Who would have guessed?

It made me think about all the times I saw a relationship status go from “dating” to “engaged” in my Facebook news feed or simply read a tweet about someones new job. I haven’t seen my cousin in over a year, but I know that she has to work tonight and would rather be drinking margaritas. Stuff like that makes me feel connected to her, but I’m not. I used to take her out for lunch but in recent years we have grown apart. I used to talk to her about her friends at school, the boy she was interested in, her after school job. Now, I only know her major because its part of her Twitter bio. I only know that she chopped off her once long blond hair because of Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong – the internet is an invaluable tool that has allowed us a great many social conveniences. Think of soldiers in Afghanistan seeing their babies for the first time over Skype, or the tweets sent out by Egyptians, hoping they find an audience, but it has also fooled us into a fake intimacy. It has led us to believe that we know people when we don’t really. That CBC interview has inspired me to try to take more time to talk to the people I care about. To send a card on birthdays rather than post on Facebook, to call when I would email and to maybe make a trip to the city to take someone out for lunch.

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